Current Status: Paused
Earliest Anticipated Start Date: 2026
The City of Boise collects roughly 30 million gallons of used water each day from homes and businesses, cleans it to a high level, and then puts it in the Boise River where it flows away. The proposed project would take a portion of that water, clean it even higher levels - to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) most stringent non-potable water quality standards, and then supply it to Farmer’s Union Ditch Company, providing a drought-proof supply of clean irrigation water for Farmer’s Union Shareholders, and helping the City of Boise meet regulations related to temperature in the Boise River.
The project remains paused, and no action is imminent. Based on current information, the estimate for the earliest that reused water would be flowing into Farmers Union ditch would be 2026. Prior to that occurring, several critical things would need to happen:
a. An education and outreach process to discuss reuse with those interested would be held prior to the project moving forward.
b. A DEQ permitting process is required, in which state regulators would evaluate environmental and public health concerns. During this process, the DEQ would also mandate the water quality standards and limits, as well as monitoring and reporting requirements. The permitting process includes a public comment period where anyone is free to offer input.
c. Additional water renewal processes would need to be built to treat the water to DEQ’s most stringent non-potable water quality standards (Class A).
d. Complete a full scientific and technical analysis (currently underway) by a national expert on reused water to evaluate whether all concerns, including any health, groundwater etc. have been fully vetted with the latest science. This includes the concerns expressed about emerging constituents.
Rationale for Project
There’s only one supply of water on the planet, and the water that we all use, including our drinking water, water we swim and play in and the water in our sinks and toilets has been used and reused many times. As a high desert city, Boise isn’t immune from water shortages and droughts, and with climate change only increasing the frequency of droughts, it’s important that our city look at new ways to get the most out of every drop.
Currently, all water collected in Boise is treated to a high level and then released in the Boise River. The city spends significant amounts of time, resources and money to treat roughly 30 million gallons of used water every day to renew a valuable resource, clean water. This valuable resource is then allowed to leave our community by flowing downstream. Based on extensive community feedback, the city wants to explore ways that we can keep the water in our community and reuse that clean product in new and beneficial ways.
For Farmers Union Ditch Company, the clear benefit for all the company’s shareholders, and those who receive irrigation water from the canal, is a reliable and drought-resistant source of clean water. Our region is already experiencing more extreme drought conditions, and projections have those only getting worse, which puts an increasing strain on the amount of water available. As is already done in Idaho, as well as many other towns across the west, reuse of highly cleaned water is a potential solution for our future water supply needs.
What’s more, the city would be leveraging existing canal infrastructure, thereby making the most out of ratepayer money already invested to deliver irrigation water, rather than having to construct a separate piping system to transport reused water for irrigation.
Is Reused Water Safe?
Yes- reused water is safe for the intended use and is currently used right here in the Treasure Valley, across Idaho, the country and the world. Related to the water that would be placed in the Farmers Union ditch, the water would be treated to DEQs most stringent non-potable water quality standards, and by many different measures, will be cleaner than the Boise River, where the canal’s current irrigation water comes from.