Reconnaissance of ground-water resources in the Mountain Home plateau area, southwest Idaho

Water-Resources Investigations Report 77-108
Prepared in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Water Resources



The Mountain Home plateau area occupies approximately 1,220 square miles of the western Snake River Plain in southwestern Idaho. About 40,000 acres are presently (1977) irrigated with ground water, about 30,000 acres with surface water. An estimated 450,000 acres are potentially irrigable, if water is available. Development of ground-water re-sources has caused water-level declines in several places. Largest declines are south of Mountain Home, where water levels dropped more than 20 feet in the last 9 years.

Ground water in the area occurs primarily under water-table conditions. Perched-water zones are present in several locations. The most productive aquifer in the eastern part of the plateau is basalt of the Bureau Formation of the Idaho Group. In the western part, the most productive aquifers are sand and gravel of the older terrace gravel lithologic unit and the Idaho Group.

Recharge to the ground-water system is water from the Boise River drainage basin, precipitation on the plateau and adjacent mountains, and leakage from irrigation structures. Ground-water movement is generally south or southwest. Natural ground-water discharge from the plateau is about 18,000 acre-feet annually.

The chemical composition of the ground water generally reflects water characteristics in the area of the source of recharge and, for the most part, is good. Deuterium and oxygen-18 isotope analyses suggest that the water at the lower end of the ground-water flow system underlying the plateau was recharged a long time ago, although climatic conditions then were similar to current conditions in the Boise River basin.

Additional large-scale ground-water development will probably result in economically prohibitive pumping lifts, which also would consume excessive amounts of energy. Therefore, large-scale new agricultural development would depend heavily on the availability of surface water. However, one or several deep test holes, in selected places, could help answer some questions about the occurrence of ground water and perhaps encourage further exploration for untapped deep artesian aquifers.

The occurrence of perched-water zones beneath lands irrigated by surface water suggests that more zones of this type could develop if water is imported into the area to irrigate additional lands, and if the efficiency of the present distribution systems remains unchanged.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Reconnaissance of ground-water resources in the Mountain Home plateau area, southwest Idaho
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 77-108
DOI 10.3133/wri77108
Year Published 1977
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: iv, 40 p.; 5 Figures
Country United States
State Idaho
Other Geospatial Mountain Home plateau area
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