Deliberate flooding of agricultural land could recharge an Idaho river

The Henrys Fork River in southeastern Idaho provides water to nearby farms, and it’s a major fly fishing destination.

But as the climate warms, water levels in the river are becoming less predictable. Sometimes, water is plentiful. But earlier snowmelt and more erratic rainfall can lead to shortages later in the summer when the water’s needed most.

Christina Morrisett is with the nonprofit Henry’s Fork Foundation. She says one way to help balance out these highs and lows is to capture water when it’s abundant and use it to recharge natural groundwater reserves.

“We flood agricultural land, or like a pond or a lake, and allow that surface water to infiltrate and percolate down into the aquifer to raise the water table,” she says.

Models of the Henrys Fork show that if the recharge location is close enough to the stream, much of that water will seep back into the river later in the season where it will be available to farms and fish.

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