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Integrated water management in the Bear River Basin




Atkin, William H., author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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The Bear River basin includes portions of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming and has the largest river in the Americas with no outlet to the ocean. There are water rights to the use of water from Bear River and its tributaries and decrees to distribute between users as well as an interstate compact to regulate between states. Central to the Bear River system is Bear Lake, which is operated as a reservoir to provide water for irrigation and to produce power. Utah Power, irrigators and Bear Lake interests signed a settlement agreement that allocates annual storage releases for irrigation. The power company and the compact states also memorialized historic operation by a signed agreement. Recognizing the interconnection between ground water and surface water, conjunctive management has become the policy of the states. The water rights, policies, decrees, compact and agreements form the foundation of the "law of the river" for Bear River. Management of the Bear River within these constraints is understandably complex. Interstate delivery of natural flow and accounting of storage allocations below Bear Lake are cooperatively performed by the states using computer models. During the irrigation season, the weekly process of data collection and computer modeling of the river had resulted in a time delay between diversion and decision-making or regulation. Recent automation, however, using telemetered gages and meters has facilitated data collection and sharing, reducing delays and allowing more accurate monitoring and regulation. Through computer models and automated data collection and sharing, water management issues have become more manageable, and decision-making and regulation more timely.


Presented at Ground water and surface water under stress: competition, interaction, solutions: a USCID water management conference on October 25-28, 2006 in Boise, Idaho.

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