ESPA Ground Water Management Area

By T.J. Budge

The Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources recently issued an Order Designating the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer Ground Water Management Area (“ESPA GWMA”) on November 2, 2016. The Director said his objective in forming the ESPA GWMA is to “bring all of the water users into the fold – cities, water districts and others – who may be affecting aquifer levels through their consumptive use.” (IDWR Press Release No. 2016-18.)

The formation of the ESPA GWMA comes on the heels of the monumental ESPA Settlement Agreement between the Surface Water Coalition (SWC) and Idaho Ground Water Appropriators, Inc. (IGWA). That Agreement resolved more than a decade of contentious litigation between surface water and groundwater users by requiring groundwater users to reduce their water use in order to achieve an agreed-upon aquifer recovery goal for the ESPA. However, about ten percent of the groundwater users who divert water from the ESPA are not represented by IGWA and are not participating in recovering the ESPA. The designation of the ESPA GWMA is designed to require these outliers to contribute toward efforts to recover the aquifer.

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