Ground-water possibilities south of the Snake River between Twin Falls and Pocatello, Idaho

Water Supply Paper 1460-C
Prepared for the United States Bureau of Reclamation with the cooperation of the Idaho Department of Reclamation



The Snake River Plain and tributary valleys south of the Snake River between Twin Falls and Pocatello, Idaho (here called the South Side area), contain about 180,000 acres of irrigated land, of which 145,000 acres is irrigated with surface water and 35,000 is irrigated wholly or partly with ground water. The area also contains more than 200,000 acres of arable land that is idle or used only for grazing because it lacks irrigation water. Most of the surface-water supply is already used or reserved, and some land now irrigated needs supplemental water.

The climate of the area ranges from semiarid on the Snake River Plain to subhumid on higher mountains. The average annual precipitation at lowland stations ranges from about 9 to 12 inches.

The principal sources of ground water are extrusive volcanic rocks of silicic to intermediate composition, basalt, and sand and gravel. Ground water occurs commonly under artesian conditions in the silicic to intermediate volcanic rocks and in sand and gravel tongues and lenses in lake beds. Basalt and alluvium commonly contain unconfined water.

The area of this report is divided into 13 roughly defined ground-water districts, some of which are further divided into subdistricts. The known geologic and hydrologic factors of each area are summarized and a preliminary appraisal is made of the ground-water resources in relation to land resources and to the regimen of streams. The current state of development, proposed new developments, and ground-water potential of each division are discussed.

The Dry Creek district is the most intensively irrigated area in Idaho in which wells furnish the water supply. Ground water occurs under both artesian and water-table conditions. More than 53,000 acre-feet of ground water was pumped in 1954. There are large areas of undeveloped arable land in the district, but pumping in some parts of the district currently is approaching or surpasses the perennial yield of the ground-water reservoirs.

The Golden Valley district contains considerable arable land but, owing to the relatively great depth to water and the generally poor yield of wells, the prospects for extensive ground-water development are not promising.

In the Oakley district ground water is pumped from alluvium to supplement surface water and to bring new land into production. The ground water will be fully exploited within a few years if the present rate of development by individual landowners continues. The total area of nonirrigated land far exceeds the amount that could be irrigated with indigenous ground water.

Both artesian and unconfined water occur in the Burley district. Most existing wells tap unconfined water in the southern part where there are still large tracts of idle arable land. Pumping lifts are rather high.

The South Walcott district contains a considerable acreage of arable land and is underlain by excellent aquifers. The effect that heavy pumping would have on the flow of the Raft and Snake Rivers and on seepage from Lake Walcott is Taot well understood. Presumably substantial pumping would be feasible without direct deleterious effects.

The Raft River basin, including the Elba and Almo-Yost subbasins, is the largest district in the South Side area. Ground water occurs in both unconfined and artesian aquifers. Possibly as much as 150,000 acres of dry land is irrigable, but the ground-water supply presumably is sufficient to irrigate only a few thousand acres in addition to the approximately 40,000 now irrigated with surface and ground water. Pumping of wells at some locations would deplete the base flow of the Raft River and would be competitive with surface-water use.

The United States Bureau of Reclamation has started construction of the Michaud Flats Irrigation Project in the Western Michaud Flats district. The adopted reclamation plan is to irrigate about 10,000 acres, using surface water pumped from American Falls Reservoir and ground water pumped from wells. Ground water in part of the district is tributary to the reservoir. Withdrawals of ground water will be compensated in part by the return of waste water to the reservoir and to the Snake River.

The Eastern Michaud Flats district contains more arable land and has better aquifers than the Western Michaud Flats district, but pumping might reduce noticeably the discharge of ground water to the American Falls Reservoir. The Bureau of Indian Affairs plans to develop about 13,600 acres of Indian land with water stored in Palisades and American Falls Reservoirs.

Virtually nothing is known about ground-water conditions in the Arbon and Rockland Valleys and in several small areas such as the Basin district, the Albion basin, and along the northern border of the Sublett Range. Preliminary studies have been made in three areas, the Dry Creek, Raft River, and Western. Michaud Flats districts. None has been studied comprehensively. The available data for each district are summarized in tabular form.

Further investigations in the area are needed and should include accurate hydrologic mapping. Studies are needed of the sources and amounts of groundwater recharge, of the effects of ground-water withdrawals on the total water supply, and of numerous related problems.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Ground-water possibilities south of the Snake River between Twin Falls and Pocatello, Idaho
Series title Water Supply Paper
Series number 1460
Chapter C
DOI 10.3133/wsp1460C
Year Published 1957
Language English
Publisher U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Idaho Water Science Center
Description iv, 47 p.
First page 99
Last page 145
Country United States
State Idaho
City Pocatello;Twin Falls
Other Geospatial Snake River Plain
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