Evaluation of Alternative Legal, Institutional, Economic, and Hydrologic Approaches for Ground-Water Banking to Facilitate Water Transfers among Uses And Users in the Snake River Basin.

Project ID: 901
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Johnson
Research Topic: Groundwater Storage
Funded Fiscal Years: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008
Keywords: None

Research Question

The Snake River Plain aquifer, like many other aquifers, has the capability to store and release substantial volumes of water. Complexities of water rights, economics, and aquifer hydraulics have inhibited efficient storage and recovery practices in the Snake River Plain. This research address questions such as:

* Can aquifers be better managed to enhance abilities to store (aquifer recharge) and exchange (renting and transfers) water among different interests (e.g. irrigation and environmental needs) and among water users (e.g. transfers from one ground water user to another)?

* Does the increased flexibility have the potential to increase efficiency of use and decrease the potential for conflict?

Need and Benefit

New conjunctive management policies within Reclamation have raised numerous questions regarding the temporal and spatial propagation of benefit or injury resulting from changing conditions of ground water recharge and discharge, and changing conditions of ground water use in the Snake River Plain aquifer system.

Managed aquifer recharge activities in the Snake River Plain are seen by many as an important tool for facilitating water rights transfers to meet the growing diversity of Idaho water needs, while at the same time insuring sustainability of ground water resources.

However, managed recharge activities are inhibited by the absence of a mechanism for assigning ownership of the benefits that result from this activity. Further, Reclamation policies (intended to prevent injury to current water users) often inhibit the water rights transfers that are essential for large-scale managed recharge activities.

Managed aquifer recharge conducted in the context of a debit and credit ground water accounting system, and linked to hydrologic modeling tools, would overcome these obstacles. A debit and credit ground water accounting system would insure proper credit for both incidental and managed aquifer recharge activity performed by Reclamation and by others. Hydrologic modeling tools would define the spatial and temporal extent of managed recharge influence within the aquifer.

This project will explore the use of debit and credit water accounting and hydrologic modeling tools in facilitating managed recharge activities in the eastern Snake River Plain. The project will use previous work from Reclamation's Snake River Resources Review program and Idaho Department of Water Resources efforts.

The proposed research addresses many of the specified 5-year research and development goals for WS-1, Ground water Storage:

* The project will facilitate the use of response functions in conjunctive management.

* Transient response functions describe the aquifer's ability to retain water and display this information in a format that facilitates sound management decisions.

* The response function inclusion in a ground water accounting scheme is holistic management, incorporating state-of-the-art knowledge of the connections between aquifers and surface water bodies.

This project will result from a partnering with the University of Idaho. Additionally, an advisory panel comprised of representatives from the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR), the eastern Snake River Plain surface water district, Nature Conservancy interests, and Idaho Fish and Game will be formed.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Not Reviewed

The following documents were not reviewed. Statements made in these documents are those of the authors. The findings have not been verified.

Groundwater Banking and Conjunctive Mangement of Groundwater and Surface Water in the Upper Snake River basin of Idaho (final, PDF, 8.9MB)
By Bryce Contor
Report completed on March 04, 2014

This project was designed as an exploratory project to consider concepts, issues, and potential benefits of groundwater banking in the Upper Snake River Basin in Idaho. The intent was to provide background information for administrative agencies to consider if implementation of groundwater banking were contemplated.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20