Posted: Sep 6, 2013 8:07 AM by Jacqueline Quynh - MTN News
HAMILTON - The water that farmers and hundreds depend on in the Bitterroot Valley is running out.
We've been following this story all summer, and went up to the last reserve on Thursday to see first hand what officials are working with.
The area near Hamilton is no actually bigger than a couple dozen football fields, and if the lake empties before the end of September, it could have a huge impact on hundreds of families in the Bitterroot Valley.
Russ Patterson has been patrolling the Daly Ditches for the past five years and says this is the lowest water levels have ever been.
"This year we're dipping into it, at the first of September," Patterson explained.
He's been talking about opening the headgates in the lake and draining it into the irrigation ditches that farmers use in the Bitterroot.
"We're running about 1,300 inches, and usually the lowest at the end of September is anywhere from 1,600 hundred and up," Rhona King with Daly Ditches told us.
Daly Lake is the very last reserve the district has, meaning that farmers may have to look to irrigate, like from from nearby creeks or other sources - and for some that's not enough.
"Some guys are letting crops go that wouldn't make it you know, cause of the shortage of water," Patterson said.
Despite recent rain fall, the irrigation district still anticipates running out of water within the next two weeks.
"We've been telling our water users that the water they do have is what it is and when it dries up, we can't push water," King said.
The costs for potential crop damage has yet to be calculated, but that could add up.
The hope is with more rain, the water will flow at least through mid September.