The megadrought extending across the western United States is causing water issues throughout Idaho, and the city of Challis is no exception.
"Let me be clear, the city is solid" when it comes to drinking water, Mayor Mike Barrett said. However, because of recent high temperatures, Watermaster David Philps has been pulling local water rights. Two of them belonged to the city -- one at the Challis Cemetery and the other for an "aesthetic diversion" at the golf course.
Barrett acknowledged people in Challis have noticed the drought's effect in Garden Creek, which has been running dry. The creek historically runs dry in July and according to Barrett, it's common to see the creek diminished by the end of the month.
Admittedly, "this is the driest I've ever seen it," Barrett said of Garden Creek after discussing the issue with city worker Alex Sarinana. "It's only the first week of July," he said at the time. "What's the first week of August look like?"
Barrett and Sarinana recently met with the largest irrigators in and around town to talk about reducing the amount of water pulled from the Challis clear well through the creek. Starting a few weeks ago, Barrett and Sarinana began with the biggest irrigators in town -- the city, the county, the Forest Service, the Challis School District and the cemetery. After them came a handful of ranches near town, Barrett said.
Looking at their usage, city workers discovered irrigators tended to water their entire properties in a single day. Doing this, someone could use about 1,200 gallons of water a day, according to Barrett, which would cause a noticeable drop in the clear well's water level. To cut back, irrigators agreed to break up the time they spend watering by irrigating sections at a time throughout the week. Instead of using 1,200 gallons in a single day, Barrett said local irrigators are now using about 400 gallons a day throughout the week to water different parts of their properties.
Sarinana reported that change is having a positive outcome. The new schedule has reduced the amount of water pulled from the clear well by an average of 175,000 gallons a day, Barrett said, and helped restore some of the streamflow in Garden Creek.