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Idaho prioritizes clean, plentiful water to build the state's future

by GOV. BRAD LITTLE Special to the Bee
| February 23, 2021 1:00 AM

There is nothing more essential to our health and way of life – or Idaho’s future – than clean, plentiful water.

The availability of water has transformed much of our state from a desert into an abundant agricultural landscape that supports tens of thousands of Idahoans and their livelihoods. Across Idaho, water is the building block for careers and prosperity.

How we manage – or mismanage – our water resources determines our success or failure as a state.

Unlike the State of California, which continues to a face a water crisis due to mismanagement of its resources, Idaho can say with pride that our executive and legislative branches in Idaho are in lockstep in our commitment to ensuring a sustainable water supply remains at the forefront of our priorities as a state moving forward. We are equally committed to maintaining and improving water quality in Idaho’s rivers, lakes, and communities.

The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee moved today to advance a critical piece of my “Building Idaho’s Future” investment package – $50 million in strategic investments in long-term water projects and safe water systems for our communities.

This investment provides for cleaner, more efficient water systems for rural communities and the agriculture industry across Idaho. It is one of the most significant investments for sustainable water infrastructure in our state’s history.

Unlike many other states, Idaho is in a position to invest in – rather than cut – financial resources that support a safe, plentiful water supply for current and future generations of Idahoans.

Our plan will increase the sustainability of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. The aquifer was declining at an unsustainable rate until recent investments by water users and the state. Now we have an opportunity to further improve aquifer levels for the benefit of farmers, ranchers, and communities across southern Idaho.

In addition, Idaho is one of the few states with a U.S. Air Force base that has the ability to significantly expand, and a stable water supply is critical to the base – an operation that contributes $1 billion annually to Idaho’s economy and ensures our security as a nation. Additional funding enables the State of Idaho to partner with the Mountain Home Air Force Base to secure a stable water supply for current and expanded missions at the base. This investment demonstrates Idaho’s proud support of a strong U.S. military and the women and men in our armed forces.

Idaho has the strongest economy in the nation, the largest budget surplus in state history, and the most financially solvent state budget because the people of Idaho did their part to propel our state forward and keep their loved ones safe during the pandemic. Once again, thank you, Idaho.

Our historic investments in agriculture and water today mean rural Idaho will remain a strong part of our heritage and economy for generations to come.

Governor Brad Little is governor the state of Idaho. He can be reached at: Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720; phone: 208-334-2100; fax: 208-854-3036; email: gov.idaho.gov/ourgov/contact.html.