Water, the mater and matrix of life

Cauldron Linn; about 22 miles upstream from Shoshone Falls. Running at 20,000+cfs.


Water, the Hub of Life. Water is its mater and matrix, mother and medium. Water is the most extraordinary substance! Practically all its properties are anomalous, which enabled life to use it as building material for its machinery. Life is water dancing to the tune of solids.
 Albert Szent-Gyorgyi


After years of below average snow and moisture in most parts of the west, Idaho included, this 2016-17 winter has been a show stopper. The average yearly snowfall for Boise is 19.2 inches. By mid January of 2017, Boise had already reached 29.2 inches of snowfall.


Mountain regions that feed into the Snake River have recorded well above normal moisture. The Idaho Water Resources Department tracks Snow Water Equivalencies (SWI)—that is the amount of water contained within the snow pack. This year, with the exception of Owyhee County, southern Idaho has recorded from 114 – 172% of normal SWI. The runoff, combined with an abnormally wet spring so far, is quickly filling long-empty reservoirs and canal ditches. Rivers are full, creeping into their flood zones.

Twin, er, Single Falls on steroids


The average volume for Shoshone Falls on the Snake River is 3,200 cubic feet per second (CFS). The amount of water rushing over Shoshone Falls is regulated by Idaho Power’s upstream dam on Twin Falls,which now looks like a rather anemic Single Falls. In the driest of years, Idaho Power is mandated to allow at least 300 CFS to spill over iconic Shoshone Falls, which boasts a 212-foot-drop and a width of 900 feet, making it an important tourist attraction for southern Idaho.


On April 3rd, Shoshone Falls was running at almost 14,000 CFS.

Shoshone Falls at 13,800 CFS



By 2025, at least 3.5 billion people – about half the world’s populations – will live in areas without enough water for agriculture, industry, and human needs…  Worldwide, water quality conditions appear to have degraded in almost all regions with intensive agriculture and in large urban and industrial areas.
–   World Resources Institute, October 2000


Quotations assembled by: http://www.gardendigest.com/water.htm


William Stockton Added Apr 17, 2017 - 8:58am
I miss my home state of Idaho!
Interesting about this coming season for rock collectors and gold panning . . . all that water has exposed new treasures!
Linda Paul Added Apr 17, 2017 - 9:33am
William, Idaho misses you! It really has been a banner year. The Boise River is at flood stage and will remain so well into June this year, as are many others like the Wood River. You are absolutely right, the rivers are scouring all unprotected lowlands. Should be a treasure hunter's paradise once all that water recedes.
Dino Manalis Added Apr 17, 2017 - 5:09pm
Keep the water clean and expand those irrigation projects, water is essential for tghe existence of life!
Linda Paul Added Apr 18, 2017 - 6:38pm
Dino thanks for reading and commenting. Keeping the water clean is a tall order for this agricultural region. Much of the water used for agricultural purposes comes from the Snake River Aquifer, which also supplies drinking water for about 50% of the people living in the region. Unfortunately, the SRA has been contaminated with radioactivity and chemicals released by Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls. If that weren't enough, ground water also absorbs chemicals and excess nitrogen as a result of large scale agriculture. Contaminated aquifer water drains into the downstream rivers ad lakes, like the Snake River.
I'm not a huge fan of expanded irrigation in a semi-arid environment like this. This year has been an outlier. Southern Idaho's yearly average moisture is 12" per year. This year is a temporary reprieve.
Linda Paul Added Apr 19, 2017 - 11:51am
Thank you Martin for directing our attention to the stealth warriors that attack our water supply. Their invisibility gives them power. We need to curb that power asap.
Mark Hunter Added Apr 20, 2017 - 3:48am
It's a beautiful place up there, Linda.
Ari Silverstein Added Apr 20, 2017 - 10:48am
What proof do you have that the Idaho National Laboratory is at fault for large scale contamination of the Idaho River?
Linda Paul Added Apr 20, 2017 - 11:04am
Ari, INL is not the sole contributor of contamination, but it is one factor:"By far the most well - documented threat to the aquifer system is the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL, now called INL) located between Arco and Idaho Falls in the middle part of the basin. Here, the federal Department of Energy has stored, buried and disposed of waste products associated with weapons production, including radioactive and industrial chemicals. The contamination has affected the vadose zone and the aquifer and includes a variety of constituents including heavy metals and volatile organic compounds" http://academic.emporia.edu/schulmem/hydro/TERM%20PROJECTS/Geller/Eastern%20Snake%20River%20Plain%20Aquifer.html
Linda Paul Added Apr 20, 2017 - 11:05am
Thank you Mark. Idaho is indeed, a unique state with a very diverse ecosystem and landscape. I'm lucky to live here. ;-)
Mike Haluska Added Apr 20, 2017 - 4:01pm
Now if only the Frakkin' Sierra Club would allow more water retention lakes to be built we could store the water during heavy rain seasons and release it  during dry seasons. 
Linda Paul Added Apr 20, 2017 - 4:30pm
Hmmm. By building more "water retention lakes," I presume you are referring to man made reservoirs. The odd looking state of Idaho already has 681 recorded reservoirs. https://itouchmap.com/?f=reservoir&s=ID. Reservoirs are useful but they create their own set of environmental problems, as we have seen with Lakes Mead and Powell in Utah & Arizona. Silt build up, fish habitat depredation, evaporation, there are many pros and cons to using reservoirs to balance water supply needs. I am no expert, but I know that these issues require far greater research and study than comment sound bytes allow.
Ari Silverstein Added Apr 21, 2017 - 6:32am
A “threat” is not a cause for contamination.  Perhaps one day this threat will turn into a reality and outing INL would be justified.  The problem is you’ve already stated there has been contamination and singled-out out INL as a major contributor to it.  Furthermore, an essay by some college student is not proof of anything. 
Linda Paul Added Apr 21, 2017 - 9:44am
Well Ari, I could have linked you to more scathing reviews by the Snake River Alliance or Idaho Rivers United, but I assumed you would discount those organizations because they are "just" environmental activist groups. I agree that terminology and one careless word mean everything. However, I wonder if you would be happy if we all just turned our heads from the "threat" and trusted Monsanto, et al. and the Dept. of Energy to do the right thing? I think it is of great concern that we pay attention to what goes into this important water supply.
http://www.id.doe.gov/NEWS/SnakeRiverPlain.pdf  Trust breeds Love Canal and Flint Drinking Water.
And in defense of Mr. Geller, his article was well researched, his findings were compiled from sources readily available on the internet, and he is not "some college student." https://www.linkedin.com/in/douglas-geller-52308242/
Thomas Napers Added Apr 22, 2017 - 5:44am
Not to get too political, but this article is testament as to why environmental anomalies are bogus evidence of climate change.  The alarmists will have you believe the reason the river was drying up is because of climate change and the reason the river is creeping into flood zones is because of climate change.  The fact of the matter is that we don’t know why either occurred…sometimes we get a lot of rain and other times we don’t.  For the earth to be warming or cooling, the river’s size should be heading in one direction.   
Linda Paul Added Apr 22, 2017 - 9:36am
Not to get too political, Thomas, but where did I refer to climate change in this article? I wrote this article in homage to the power of moving water, which, while standing inches from it, is gut-wrenchingly powerful and fascinating. Apparently I did not get that feeling across.
I am not a climatologist. I am not a scientist. I'm an amateur photographer who included text to give context to the photos I posted. Idaho, like most of the western United States, has been gripped by several years of drought. I do NOT deny that fact. Droughts have existed throughout the life of this planet. During a drought, some rivers dry up. The Snake River has never dried up but it is impacted not only by drought, but by agricultural and power needs of dams on the river, which effect upper reaches of the river, which is why in a normal year, Cauldron Linn is not worthy of the long drive it takes to peer over the edge of the bank to look at it.
I included a quote from the World Resources Institute because I, like many others, tend to take water for granted. In many parts of the world, water is as precious as gold. That is NOT a reference to climate change. That is a simple fact of geography and population.
Go argue climate change with a scientist.
jonathan michael robbins Added May 6, 2017 - 4:01am
What I love most about water is it's mobility and it's poetic quality of taking with it the essence of everything
ever emerged in it.
Linda Paul Added May 6, 2017 - 8:15am
Well said, Johnathan. And that quality of taking with it everything ever emerged in it, is what stirs the tremble inside me when I walk so near its roaring journey.