KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho — Despite above-average snowpack in Idaho, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is only "moderately optimistic" the state will have an ample water supply, reports the Coeur d'Alene Press.
"The memory of little-to-no snowfall for three months last winter still stings, and despite the healthy snowpack, reservoir storage is very low throughout much of the state," according to the January NRCS Idaho Water Supply Outlook Report. "This water year, we face an uphill battle to alleviate the multi-year drought. Hopefully, Mother Nature delivers a generous snowpack and wet spring to relieve water stress this coming irrigation season."
The state is on track to meet water supply needs this irrigation season at this point in the winter due to above-normal snowpack conditions, the report said.
"However, there is still a lot of winter ahead of us. This year, with low reservoir carryover in most areas, we are dependent on the snowpack continuing to build and stay above normal to meet irrigation demand," it said.
Currently, 72% of Idaho lands are in moderate to severe drought, and the remainder of the state is "abnormally dry." The seasonal drought outlook forecasts widespread drought improvement across Idaho, according to the recently released report.
All basins across the state have above-normal snowpack, ranging from 121% to 172% of normal. The fourth-coldest November on record preserved early season snowfall throughout much of the state, the NRCS report said.
"The cold temperatures through November and December gave us an early start to building the snowpack we need this water year," according to the report.
The Idaho Panhandle went from a warm and dry October to a frosty November. December precipitation was 115% of normal. Snowpack in the Panhandle is 125% of normal as of Jan. 1.
"Although water year 2023 started off slow with a mild and dry October, conditions changed in early November when a swath of snow fell across most of the Panhandle basins on Nov. 6 and 7," the report said. "An additional heavy snow event on Nov. 30 helped to further build an above-normal low-elevation snowpack."
November 2022 was the sixth-snowiest month on record and the Spokane International Airport had at least 1 inch of snow on the ground for 26 straight days in November, which broke the old record of 22 days.
Streamflow forecasts for April through July are 100% of normal.
The first part of January is expected to be wetter than normal across all of Idaho, NRCS reported.
The Climate Prediction Center forecasts a continuation of La Niña conditions for Idaho's third consecutive winter, which is only the fifth time that has happened since 1910.
"We will have to ride this triple-dip La Niña winter roller coaster all the way to spring to find how conditions will pan out," the report said.
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