Voting to combat climate change, enhance the Boise River, recycle water in new ways and ensure infrastructure reliability for the community, Boise City Council unanimously approved the comprehensive Water Renewal Utility Plan, marking major proactive shifts to the way that the city will manage its water resources. Currently, Water Renewal Services, the city utility that collects and cleans approximately 30 million gallons of used water every day from Boise’s homes and businesses, treats that water to a high level and then puts it into the Boise River to flow downstream without further use.
The city began an extensive planning process in 2015 to address upcoming community challenges, such as climate change, the growth of Boise, aging infrastructure, and increasing regulations. The plan was built over four years of robust community engagement, coupling the themes and values expressed by Boiseans with extensive technical, regulatory and financial analysis. The Water Renewal Utility Plan includes the following key components:
- Enhancing the health and uses of the Boise River through restoration projects and increased water renewal
- Reinvesting in the city’s existing infrastructure by repairing, replacing and upgrading crucial system components
- Supporting the city’s economy by establishing an industrial water reuse program
- Developing a recycled water and aquifer recharge program
- Adding two new water renewal facilities to decentralize the system and build resilience
- Creating new affordability programs and exploring new options to pay for system improvements
"Climate Change will impact everything we do in this city, how we plan, how we build, and the services we provide," said Mayor Lauren McLean. "As a city, we have to be prepared for what's next, we have to innovate, we must create resilience in our community, and we need clean water. We can't survive without it. This plan does just that, meeting our challenges head-on, reflecting the community values and environmental return on investment Boiseans expect and deserve."
With the plan’s approval, the city will now work to create a financial model that balances affordability, equity and community expectations to fund the significant capital expenses. The increased upgrades, new facilities and increased capacity will cost between $890 million and $1.3 billion over the next 20 years. The city will be gathering public input and conducting financial analysis over the next several months and will be back in front of Boise City Council next spring with information about the potential impacts to rates for businesses and residents and provide recommendations for funding options.
“Smart, long-term water planning might be the most important thing a desert city on a warming planet can do for its citizens,” said Boise City Councilmember Patrick Bageant. “This plan is a clear-eyed look at an otherwise uncertain future – from building capacity to treat our future waste, to regulatory compliance, to creative reuse solutions and common-sense financing, this plan represents what is best for the next generation of Boiseans.”
While the Water Renewal Utility Plan sets policy direction for the city, it does not approve any specific projects. Major projects such as new facilities, recycled water and industrial reuse will be brought to Boise City Council for approval and will include significant community engagement.