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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Despite rain in the forecast, experts have ‘increasing concern’ for Idaho drought

Low precipitation and a hot summer led to low-water conditions at many local fisheries, including Lucky Peak Reservoir northeast of Boise, in 2021. Experts say 2022 will likely be another drought year.  (Jordan Rodriguez/Idaho Statesman)
By Nicole Blanchard Idaho Statesman

On the heels of Boise’s driest February on record, forecasts are calling for rain in the Treasure Valley and across the region. But experts say that precipitation likely won’t make a dent in the state’s drought, which is expected to worsen in the spring and summer.

During a Monday news conference for the Pacific Northwest Drought Early Warning System, National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Bryant said wet weather in Idaho, Washington and Oregon will miss key areas.

“For many of the areas that are currently in extreme drought, or worse, we’re gonna see below average precipitation,” said Bryant, who works for the Portland branch of the weather service.

By the end of March, Bryant said, most of the Northwest will be past its rainiest season of the year, meaning there’s little chance for water supply to catch up – though he noted that Southwest Idaho could see more precipitation in May. Bryant said above-average rainfall could help pull some areas out of drought, but forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center don’t show that happening this spring. In addition, forecasts are calling for above-average summer temperatures and below-average precipitation.

That combination of conditions is expected to push Idaho further into drought, potentially surpassing last year’s peak drought conditions. Bryant said there’s “increasing concern” for a multiyear drought across Idaho.

Currently 99.5% of Idaho is experiencing some level of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This time last year, 83% of the state was affected by some level of drought.

According to a report on 2021 drought impacts from the National Integrated Drought Information System, Idaho, Washington and Oregon all experienced agricultural, recreational and fisheries impacts from last year’s drought. The report cited National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that North Idaho lost roughly 45% of chickpea yields, 25% of lentil yields and 21% of pea yields.

Of the three states included in the report, Idaho was the driest compared to its normal water supply, an analysis found.