Irrigation and Agriculture

The Boise River and its companion aquifer support a multi-million dollar agricultural industry in Ada and Canyon Counties. Approximately half of the land in the Treasure Valley is irrigated agriculture, and of this, approximately 65 percent is irrigated with water diverted from the Boise River and distributed through an extensive series of canals. The largest of these is the New York Canal. The canals are operated by a variety of irrigation districts, canal companies and other entities. Ground water from the river’s companion aquifer is also used for irrigation.

Commercial agriculture is an integral part of the state and local economies. Statewide, agriculture provided approximately $1.24 billion in gross wages and $12.19 billion in gross sales in 2006 according to “The Contributions of Agriculture to Idaho’s Economy: 2006,” 2008 by Watson et al. Watson and his coauthors claim that agriculture is the single largest contributor to the Idaho economy enabling total sales of more than $21 billion in 2006.

Water Used

According to estimates by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in 2005 the entire state of Idaho used 19.5 million gallons of water per day (Mgal/d) (USGS, 2013).

Ada County was the fifth largest user of irrigation water. Canyon County was 12th. Ada and Canyon counties together accounted for nearly 10 percent of the total water used for irrigation in Idaho (USGS, 2013).


Geographical Area Groundwater Withdrawals for Crops (Mgal/d) Surface Water Withdrawals for Crops (Mgal/d) Total Irrigation Withdrawals for Crops (Mgal/d)
Ada County 62.67 961.29 1023.96
Canyon County 214.99 382.43 597.42
Idaho 3838.01 12674.81 16512.82


Types of Agricultural Products and Acres in Production

The most complete U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) census data detailing the types of agricultural products grown in the vicinity of the Boise River[1] is from 2007. In that year, at least 37 different food crops were reported. The following table shows those crops and the acreage planted of each:


Product Acres Product Acres
Apples 1740 Mint 8505
Apricots 3 Oats 384
Asparagus 32 Onions, Dry 6065
Barley 2627 Peaches 940
Beans, Dry Edible, (excluding Lima) 5687 Pears 108
Beans, Dry Edible, Lima 643 Peas, Chinese 484
Beans, Snap 5 Peas, Dry Edible 1082
Blackberries 4 Peppers, Bell 3
Carrots 5 Peppers, Chili 1
Cherries, Sweet 669 Plums and Prunes 196
Corn, Grain 22838 Potatoes 8936
Corn, Silage 24035 Pumpkins 156
Corn, Sweet 560 Raspberries 9
Cucumbers 5 Squash 3
Eggplant 1 Sugar Beets 10705
Grapes 1162 Tomatoes, in the Open 12
Hazelnuts 1 Walnuts, English 7
Melons, Cantaloupe 4 Wheat 27784
Melons, Watermelon 6  
Quantities of Food Produced

The total value of the crops produced in Ada and Canyon counties was nearly $220 million in 2007. Examples of the quantities produced are:

Ada County

Canyon County

Barley 112,610 Bu Barley 285,043 Bu
Beans, Dry Edible (excl. Lima) 12,777 Cwt Beans, Dry Edible (excl. Lima) 121,787 Cwt
Corn, Grain 489,128 Bu Beans, Dry Edible (Lima) 14382 Cwt
Mint, Oil 107,544 Lbs. Corn, Grain 3,725,464 Bu
Oats 7591 Bu Mint, Oil 740,233 Lbs.
Sugar Beets 66,363 Tons Oats 27,134 Bu
Wheat 491,491 Bu Peas, Dry Edible 27, 005 Cwt
  Sugar Beets 326,651 Tons
  Wheat 2,519,780 Bu

Wheat alone in these two counties accounted for approximately $14.81 million in sales in 2007 (United States Department of Agriculture, 2013).

Jobs Created

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that  approximately 1,630 farming, fishing and forestry related jobs existed in the Boise-Nampa in May 2012. That is more than a quarter of all farming, fishing and forestry related jobs for the entire state of Idaho, which was 5,680 for that same month (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013).

[1] Here, “in the vicinity of the Boise River” is defined as those agricultural products that were grown in Ada and Canyon Counties.

sugar beets

Sugar Beets growing in Canyon County