Custer, Lemhi and Butte counties are among the 34 counties outside the Idaho Panhandle that were declared drought counties on April 28. An emergency drought declaration for the 34 counties in Central and Southern Idaho was issued April 28 by Gary Spackman, director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources. Only the 10 counties in Northern Idaho weren’t included in the declaration, which was approved by Gov. Brad Little the following day.
An emergency drought declaration provides “a powerful tool for agricultural water users to cope with drought by allowing temporary water right changes for the remainder of the year,” water resources Deputy Director Mathew Weaver said. An emergency drought declaration can sometimes help with eligibility requirements for federal drought assistance, Weaver said.
The water resources department staff can now consider applications for temporary changes in the point of diversion, place of use and purpose of use for “valid, existing water rights,” Weaver said, and temporary exchanges of water rights, “when it is determined that such changes can be accomplished without harming existing water rights.”