The city of Hailey is taking creative steps to secure water rights to irrigate three city parks, in case senior-water-rights holders to the south challenge the city’s municipal well usage during dry spells.
Conjunctive water rights administration, expected to be put in place soon in the Wood River Valley, will favor surface-water-right users over groundwater users with less seniority.
Water from two wells being drilled close to the Big Wood River in Heagle Park and Lion’s Park will be used to irrigate both parks, as well as nearby Hop Porter Park.
“The goal is to maintain our parks by having a good [priority] water right, and to take these parks off of the city water system, which will improve overall pressure and supply,” said Public Works Director Tom Hellen.
The cost for construction of the two wells will be about $161,000.
Water from the new wells will replace treated water from municipal wells built in the 1970s, which is more vulnerable to “calls”—or curtailments—demanded by downstream water users with higher-priority water rights.
“This will also save money in the parks budget, as the general fund pays the water fund for water used, the same as the citizens in the city do,” Hellen said.
The new wells are allowed under two, 2013-priority groundwater rights issued by the Idaho Department of Water Resources last summer. The new rights are linked under a mitigation plan to four Hiawatha Canal water rights the city owns that date from the 19th century.
The Hiawatha Canal rights linked to the new wells equal .82 cubic feet per second of water, enough to irrigate 8.7 acres. The rights are appurtenant to city rights-of-way Hailey gained when it annexed Northridge subdivision about 30 years ago.
SPF Engineering senior water rights specialist Roxanne Brown, who worked on the new water rights applications, said the city mitigated for the new wells by limiting its legal diversion of water from the Big Wood River north of Hailey into the Hiawatha Canal.
The city’s Hiawatha Canal water rights, dating from 1883 to 1888, will be left in the Big Wood River, Brown said. Because the wells near the parks downstream of the canal diversion are so close to river, the IDWR considers them to have a “hydraulic link” to the river, she said.
“The city was not able to move its entire water rights from the Hiawatha Canal because the canal keeps 20 percent of its water right for conveyance of other water rights in the canal,” Brown said.
“I think you will see more of these creative solutions as we move forward with conjunctive administration,” she said.