An early plan of the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation proposed to irrigate 183,000 acres on the arid Snake River Plain south of Boise, Idaho (Mountain Home project) with Boise River water. That water would have been replaced to the Boise Valley with water imported from the Payette River. An alternate plan, proposed in 1953, would divert water from the Boise River to the plain; part of the water would be replaced by pumping ground water in the Boise valley and by importing water from the Snake River. Pumping of ground water in the Boise Valley also would help to drain waterlogged land. The present report evaluates the feasibility of the alternate plan in relation to geology and the occurrence and quality of ground water.
The mean annual temperature at Boise is 50.8 ? F and there is an average of 172 days between killing frosts. The annual evaporation rate from open-water surfaces in the area is about 33 inches. Runoff in the Boise River is chiefly from precipitation on mountain slopes at altitudes above 3,000 feet, east of Boise Diversion Dam. The surface-water supply of the Boise Valley is more Than ample for the valley, owing to large upstream storage and regulatory dams and reservoirs. The valley also contains a large volume of ground water in storage, and the perennial rate of recharge is large. The computed consumptive depletion of surface water in the valley is nearly 600,000 acre-feet a year. Apparent depletion, computed from adjusted runoff at Notus, is 1,070,000 acre-feet. The difference of 470,000 acre-feet represents ground-water underflow and ungaged surface outflow from the area east of Notus.
After the beginning of irrigation, around the turn of the century, the water table in the Boise Valley rose steadily; the amount of rise at some places was as much as 140 feet. Shallow perched zones of saturation were created locally. More than 100,000 acres of Boise Valley land now is waterlogged or threatened with waterlogging, despite the presence of more than 325 miles of surface drains. Successful operation of the alternate plan would depend, not only on providing adequate water to replace that exported from the Boise Valley, but also on satisfactory drainage of waterlogged land. That is, water management in the valley would have to couple economical pumping of irrigation water with effective drainage by pumping.
The average of recorded yearly diversions from the Boise River is 1,280,000 acre-feet of live water (natural flow in a stream) and 201,000 acre-feet cf recycled water. Gross diversions of record in some recent single years of ample water supply reportedly exceeded 1,800,000 acre-feet. Ground water, on the other hand is used on a relatively small scale, yearly pumpage being only about 150,000 acre-feet. The feasibility of exporting 600,000 acre-feet of Boise River water would depend on the availability of replacement water in the Boise Valley and on the availability of the required surface water in the South Fork of the Boise River at the proposed point of diversion to the Mountain Home project. In 6 of the 20 years, 1931-50, recorded diversions of live and return water from th2 Boise River exceeded the live flow at the Boise Diversion Dam by 3,865 to 107,640 acre-feet. Moreover, although the average residual discharge in the river post Notus was 701,000 acre-feet, in most years some river reaches above Notus were dry at times, owing to diversion of all water from the river. Much of the flow past Notus is surface waste and effluent ground water, which averages about 422,000 acre-feet a year.
The total of potential yearly ground water recharge in the Boise Valley, derived from precipitation, incoming underflow, and infiltration of irrigation water, is about 554,000 acre-feet in the feasible exchange-pumping area and areas tributary thereto. Identified and estimated consumptive depletion of ground water in the valley is about 230,000 acre-feet a year, but not all that depletion is within the exchange are