What is Water Reuse?
Water reuse is the beneficial use of a community’s cleaned wastewater (used water), increasing the available water supply and reliability, especially in times of drought. The water is highly treated to varying levels depending on the intended use.
Water can be reused in several different ways: agriculture (irrigation and food production), recharging underground aquifers and industrial reuse for manufacturing or other processes. Typically, water reuse is either classified as potable (drinkable) reuse, and non-potable (not intended for drinking). The City of Boise is only considering non-potable water reuse at this time.
- Nationally, there are states that have successfully implementing water reuse for decades in several different ways.
- Watsonville, California
- In Idaho, there are currently 130+ reuse permits. Local examples include:
- The City of Meridian – citywide permit for irrigation, and reused water for carwashes.
- Hidden Springs – For irrigation
Why Consider Water Reuse?
- Keeping our water local – The city spends an incredible amount of time, money and resources treating our city’s used water (nearly 30 million gallons per day), and at the end of that treatment we create a product (clean water) that then is put into the river where it flows out of the state. We must explore new and innovative ways to keep the clean water in our community.
- Impending state and federal regulations around our community’s renewed water will require us to find creative, sustainable and cost-effective ways to use that water to maximum benefit.
- Reusing water is not new- Communities across the country and world have been successfully reusing water for decades.
- There is no new water- All water on the planet is all the water we will ever have and has been used and reused many times.
- A climate adaptation assessment was completed in 2016, and six out of the eight challenges that climate changes pose to Boise are water related, highlighting the need to manage water wisely for our community. Water reuse is one way that we can address water risks due to climate change.
- Globally, a quarter of humanity faces looming water crises. Water reuse a key part of the solution.
As a high-desert city, Boise has the potential for water scarcity, so getting the most out of every drop is critical for future generations.
- For the past three years, as part of building the city’s multi-year Water Renewal Utility Plan that builds for the future of our used water systems, the city has gathered extensive feedback from residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations through focus groups, surveys, and an advisory panel. The thousands of responses have shown consistently high levels of support for water reuse.
Is Water Reuse Safe?
Yes. Water reuse has been widely and safely used in many applications across the country for decades. Any water reuse must be permitted by Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and meet stringent regulations.
Prior to any new water reuse projects, a robust 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, limits, and monitoring and reporting requirements. The permitting process includes a public comment period where the public is free to offer input.
What’s Coming Next?
The city is currently wrapping up work on the draft Water Renewal Utility Plan. As part of the utility plan, a comprehensive scientific and technical analysis will be conducted by a national expert on reused water to fully examine the most current state of the science surrounding reuse. A community engagement process to discuss reuse with our residents will follow analysis, likely to be held in 2020.
After the additional community engagement process and comprehensive technical analysis has been completed, a policy-level discussion with Boise’s mayor and city council will occur in the spring and summer of 2020. The discussion with city leaders will determine the policy direction on whether the city should pursue water reuse opportunities in the future.
If city leaders decide water reuse opportunities should be pursued, the abovementioned DEQ permitting process would be undertaken.
Want to Learn More?
Have Questions about Water Reuse in Boise?
Encroachments are things like buildings, parking areas, fences, landscaping and other structures or activities in our easement areas. Idaho law requires a landowner to obtain written permission before encroaching on the Farmer’s Union canal or right-of-way.
We cannot allow construction or other activities in the easement if they will interfere with our access, operation, maintenance and repair activities.
Idaho law provides no person or entity shall cause or permit any encroachments onto the right-of-way including public or private roads, utilities, fences, gates, pipelines, structures, or other construction or placement of objects, without the written permission of the owner of the right-of-way. (Idaho Code 42-1102; 42-1209). We appreciate the cooperation of landowners in keeping our rights-of-way free and clear from fences, gates, and other obstructions that prevent us from performing routine maintenance or responding to emergencies.
You must contact us if you plan any activity within or affecting any of the canals, laterals or easements prior to starting.
We will review your project and determine if what you want to do will interfere with our access, operation, maintenance and repair activities. If it does, we may be able to offer suggestions on how your project can go forward without interfering with our use of the easement.
To deliver water to our customers we need to be able to clean, maintain and make repairs to the canal system. In order to be able to do this we need access to our irrigation facilities through the use of easements. Idaho law gives us the legal right to use these easements through either fee title ownership, by rights-of-way or statutory easements.
Easements are strips of land along the banks of our canals and lateral ditches. They are generally located on either or both sides of the canal or ditch.
It is important to understand that easement areas are not public property. They are not open to public use. Under Idaho law, unauthorized third party use of these strips of land amounts to trespassing.
Easements give us access so we can:
• Monitor/adjust water flows
• Remove sediment and debris from the canals and ditches
• Control weed growth by mowing, spraying or burning
• Pipe, line and refurbish ditches
• Perform other maintenance activities
Easements also give us the right to deposit material on the ditch banks that has been removed during cleaning and maintenance. As well as the right to take out obstructions to the easement and to prohibit activities which unreasonably interfere with maintenance activities.
If your land is crossed by a canal or lateral, you may use the easement area so long as it does not interfere with our access, operation, maintenance and repair activities.
Why does the District/Canal Company cut down some of the trees and brush along the canals, ditches or drains?
Although the trees and brush along a canal, ditch or drain may be aesthetically pleasing, they can present a problem for the irrigation districts/canal companies. Trees and brush reduce the efficiency of the canal, and a larger percentage of water conveyed in the canal is “lost” due to the vegetation.
By controlling, but not eliminating, vegetation along the canals or drains, more water is available to irrigate the land. When trees or brush fall into a canal, ditch or drain, the blockage can cause flooding or an increase in groundwater. Removing certain vegetation in advance helps reduce the cost and danger of those events.
Under State of Idaho Noxious Weed Law (Idaho Code 22-2407), it is the responsibility of all property owners to control noxious weeds on their property. The Canal Company controls weeds on property owned by the company and in easements. However, property owners also need to do their part. In some cases, your property may go to the center line of a ditch or canal, and you may be responsible for some of the weed control.
Idaho Water Users Association http://iwua.org/
Idaho Department of Water Resources http://www.idwridaho.gov/
Treasure Valley Water Users Association http://www.treasurevalleywaterusers.com/
Title 43 – Idaho Statutes pertaining to Irrigation District
Title 42 – Idaho Statutes pertaining to Irrigation and Drainage – Water Rights and Reclamation