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Boise river during sunset

Protecting Our Water

Planning for Regulations and Climate Change

August 11, 2020

The Boise River is the lifeblood of our community. From floating to fishing, from the Greenbelt to our parks, the river is at the heart of what makes Boise, Boise. We have heard from our community repeatedly that protecting the river should be one of the city’s highest priorities, and Water Renewal Services takes that charge seriously. Every single day the city treats and cleans over 30 million gallons of used water before putting it into the river. As regulations increase and climate change impacts on our water supply, we are preparing for how to continue to protect the Boise River and our precious supply of water.

Regulations

Regulations for the treated water we put in the river are getting stricter. As the city prepares for these regulations and the increased stress of a growing population, we are planning for ways to not only meet our regulatory requirements, but to enhance the quality of our river and beneficially reuse this high quality resource.

Climate Change

Climate change is another important factor in our planning. Boise has a high desert climate, meaning we tend to get l little precipitation throughout the year and hot dry summers. While that means we get all four season and lots of sunny days, it also makes us susceptible to drought. A Boise-specific climate assessment found that in the coming years Boise is likely to see:

  • Increased heat stress days
  • Increased heavy precipitation days which put strain on our stormwater and water renewal systems
  • Increased irrigation demands
  • Increased drought frequency
  • Increased wildfires
  • More winter runoff, leaving less for the spring and summer

In other desert communities, increased drought has driven up the cost of water as much as 50 times as high as it is in Boise. With the threat of drought increasing, the water that we discharge to the river presents our community with an opportunity to renew and recycle water to create a more sustainable and drought-resistant water supply.

Water Renewal Services is not only planning for the effects of climate change, we are working to combat it. Cleaning and recycling water take a lot of energy - it accounts for 40% of our municipal energy use. As part of Boise’s Energy Future, Water Renewal Services plans to use completely clean electricity by 2030.

Needed Investment

Over the next 20 years, the city expects to invest between $130-$190 million to address increased regulations. We will continue to monitor the value of water to make decisions about how much water should be renewed and recycled to combat the impacts of climate change.

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