Project operators give water update
Bureau of Indian Affairs issued the following irrigation water update on July 13:
Due to the continued below average water year precipitation, above average spring and early summer temperatures, and high irrigation demand, the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project is experiencing water shortages. Flathead Indian Irrigation Project expects lower than average water year precipitation, warmer conditions, and high irrigation demands to continue throughout the remaining irrigation season. The following is a brief summary of water availability and outlook per geographic area:
The quota of 0.70 acre feet per acre, set at the beginning of the irrigation season, has been raised to 0.80 acre-feet per acre. Current storage is 72 percent of capacity. Project management fully expects to meet the revised delivery quota.
To meet the revised quota, project managers will continue to move water from Little Bitterroot Reservoir into Hubbart until the end of July.
Storage in the Jocko Valley is 25 percent of capacity with 2,856 usable acre-feet. Given current conditions and irrigation demand, project management is projecting water storage to be depleted sometime around the end of the third week of July to the end of July. After depleting storage, there will not be adequate water to meet irrigation demands. This will extend to all laterals with headworks from the Jocko River.
Regarding stockwater, Flathead Indian Irrigation Project will divert any water above instream flows (if any) for stockwater for as long as possible. In order to deliver water in an equitable manner, a quota of 0.50 acre feet per acre has been implemented in the Jocko Valley.
The lack of precipitation and high temperatures resulted in a runoff that was significantly less than average, very dry soil conditions, and a very high irrigation demand. Demand for irrigation deliveries began early and has remained high throughout the season. This demand combined with less than average runoff has resulted in lower than average storage for this time. Current storage across the valley is 34 percent of capacity with 30,469 acre-feet currently usable.
Project management expects the lower than average precipitation and warmer temperatures to continue through the irrigation season (although the project has had recent precipitation).
Given the current conditions, irrigation demand, projected weather forecast, and the low storage, the project has implemented a ration and/or rotation schedule for the entire Mission Valley for the remainder of the irrigation season.
Project management is working diligently to extend the season to the second week of August. This is a projection only. With proper water usage, this projected date may be achievable.
The temporary shutdown, July 2 to July 7 allowed the reservoir to recover to 5,400 acre-feet. All three pumps have been running. The third pump was operational on July 2. Since resuming deliveries, delivery has been under a strict rationing and rotation schedule based on the 200 cubic feet per second that the Flathead River pumps provide. The reservoir storage will remain near 5, 000 acre-feet for the remainder of the season. This buffer can be used in the event the project experiences temporary pump shut downs.
We expect water users to work cooperatively with the irrigation system operators during this shortage.
Any additional shutdown periods and lengths will be dependent upon storage and the operation of the Flathead River pumps.
What can you do?
1. Work cooperatively with neighbors and the Irrigation System Operator to assist in implementing any water scheduling including a ration and/or rotation schedule. In order to effectively manage their service area, Irrigation System Operators need your cooperation.
2. Call in all water delivery orders including ons, offs, and changes.
3. Use water conservatively.
4. Correct all water losses and inefficiencies.