Idaho and the Boise River Basin is likely going to be in a drought this summer. The source of BCCC irrigation water is the Boise River, therefore canal operations will be impacted by the forecasted drought. We experienced the drought last year, but it appears the impact may be greater this year.
To help you plan for the drought’s impact, here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
Yes, there will be water flowing in the canal this year. Irrigation season will begin on April 15th. We anticipate starting the flow the week of April 18, and the water should reach the entire system by April 21. There may be unanticipated delays, but we will make every effort to meet this schedule.
We have two sources of water, but it all comes from the Boise River. We have our decreed water right (or natural flow) that we take from the Boise River at our headgate. We also have a storage right to 700 acre feet of water in Lucky Peak Reservoir, to the extent that reservoir fills. Estimates for the Boise River Basin were 51% to 70% of normal water availability before the recent snow/rain events. It will be a tight year, although we are hopeful the current snow and rain conditions may improve the outlook slightly.
Water District 63 and the Idaho Department of Water Resources regulate the water in the Boise River and the allocation to water users. As the flows in the river drop, all users are cut equally until the 60% level. At that point, the date of the user’s water right – their priority date – is used to determine which user is cut off. BCCC’s date is June 1, 1886, so we are one of the last to be cut. However, for the first time in our memory, that happened last year and, most likely, will happen this year.
We can “call for” our storage water whenever we are cut off due to priority date. Our estimate is that when we call for our storage water, our right in the reservoir will be about 400 acre feet (out of a 700 acre feet right). That will give us about 10 days of water operating at our reduced rate of 20 cfs. It will help, but won’t solve the problem.
There are two types of water users on the canal. There are those who get their water from the main canal, usually by pumping, and those who get their water from the main canal through laterals. Laterals are separate Lateral Water Users’ Associations and set their own method of distribution. BCCC has not set an official policy for distribution of water to users from the main canal and laterals. We will be working with the Associations to determine water delivery schedules. Zamzows has published some tips to “train” your lawn for the drought that may be helpful.
Probably yes, but there are many variables. The large water users on the river are anticipating turning off by the end of August. If our priority date comes up, we can go to our storage water to keep flows going, but that won’t last for long. If our priority date is still operational, but there is simply not enough water in the river we will have to shut down. We will keep you informed through our website www.boisecitycanal.org as things progress.
You may have a lateral irrigation ditch running through your property. This FAQ addresses commonly asked questions about maintenance and access with answers drawn directly from Idaho law.
Boise City Canal Company is a non-profit that prides itself on being a good neighbor. We hope this guide helps reduce conflict and uncertainty. If you have any questions, please contact us.
Boise City Canal Company Board of Directors
This FAQ is designed to address common situations. In summary:
Remember, water law isn’t always clear. These questions should be viewed as guidance rather than legal advice. The numbers in parentheses are references to Idaho code.
If you are a shareholder, yes! We have water shares available, and the cost to irrigate most
properties is $98 per year.
The main canal is maintained by Boise City Canal Company and the lateral ditches are
maintained by their water users, who are sometimes formally organized as ‘lateral associations’ (42-1202). A lateral manager often coordinates operations.
Yes. There is an easement, or right of way, for accessing the ditch (42-1102). Water users have the right to use that easement, unannounced, to clean, maintain and inspect the ditch. If requested by BCCC or the lateral association, you must remove fences or install gates at your own expense to provide access to the ditch (42-1209).
The width of the easement isn’t defined, but is wide enough to operate commonly used equipment such as mini-excavators. A good rule of thumb is to leave 7.5’ either side of the centerline of the lateral ditch for access. The main canal has a wider easement.
Irrigation easements are based upon prior use and are often not recorded. They are statutorily recognized, and the existence of the ditch provides notice of the easement (42-1102). We are working with the Ada County Association of Realtors to improve communication about this issue.
No. This is not a public easement. The only people who can use the easement are water users, and only for cleaning, inspecting, and maintaining the ditch. This is a fairly small number of people, and they’re your neighbors. Many lateral associations have a ‘big cleanup’ in March or April, and subsequent maintenance needs are few.
No. The lateral easement is a longstanding part of Idaho law. You can minimize problems by keeping your section well-maintained.
No. Idaho law allows cleaning debris (mud, vegetation) to be left on the ditch bank (42-1102). Most people are good neighbors. If you provide a trash can, they’ll probably use it.
Perhaps. You are partially responsible for ensuring the water flows from the leadgate to your property. You must take reasonable precautions to avoid flooding your neighbors (42-1204). Please get involved in your lateral association and consider helping less able neighbors with their ditches.
Yes. Idaho law says that the property owner, and future owners, are responsible for the maintenance and repair of buried conduits. If your pipe is broken or blocked, you must fix it (42-1207).
Idaho law says that when a ditch is piped or buried: “...the landowner, his heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns shall be responsible for any increased operation and maintenance costs, including rehabilitation and replacement, unless otherwise agreed in writing...” (42-1207).
Maybe. Written permission must be obtained from the lateral association, a license agreement must be signed, technical specifications must be followed, and you will incur the costs of additional future maintenance (42-1207).
Probably. Talk to the lateral association or canal company first.
Unless you have a license agreement, BCCC or the lateral association can require you to remove the shed (42-1209). However, we recognize the urban nature of our canal, and we try not to cause unnecessary disruption.
No. There is no right of adverse possession on irrigation easements (42-1208).
Maybe. Blocking or obstructing irrigation ditches, even if presently unused, is a misdemeanor (18-4306). Please contact BCCC, and we can tell you whether it’s part of our system.
Trees are beautiful, shady, and expensive to remove. Although we have the right to remove the tree if it interferes with the easement (42-1102), we prefer not to. We are not responsible for maintaining vegetation simply because it is in the easement (42-1204).
You and the other users on your ditch have a duty to maintain it, and thus a right of access (42-1202). If fences prevent access, ask your lateral association to demand they be removed or that gates be installed. If there is no lateral association, consider forming one. You may also ask BCCC for assistance.
BCCC operates the main canal that flows from Warm Springs Golf Course, under downtown, and through the West End, Sunset and Collister neighborhoods. It delivers water to the lateral ditches, who operate independently. As a courtesy, BCCC has at times assisted lateral associations.
Read Idaho Code Title 42, Chapters 11-13, and Title 18, Chapter 43. Consult the Idaho Department of Water Resources booklet ‘Statutes Pertaining to Canals and Laterals’.
First: the manager of your lateral ditch. If you don’t know who the manager is, or there isn’t one, ask your neighbors that use the water. You may also contact BCCC. We will try and help, although we are unable to intervene in every situation.
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Availability: water is usually delivered April 15 through October 15.