Water Quality

Scott Ki / Boise State Public Radio

Federal officials are awarding Idaho about $2 million in grants for 10 projects intended to protect water quality.

Kurt Carpenter / USGS

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is holding its 27th annual water quality workshop at Boise State this week. Dan Wise is with the U.S. Geological Survey in Oregon, and Wednesday he’s presenting his findings from a regional study on phosphorus in streams.

Here’s a quick high school science refresher: Phosphorus is a chemical element and is essential for life. It’s in chemical fertilizer, as well as in animal and human waste. But there’s a delicate balance – too much phosphorus can cause problems in waterways with too much plant growth.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

A group of scientists and trainers will work with volunteers Saturday to monitor the quality of water in the Boise River. 

Mike McMillan / USFS

Mercury contamination is well documented in the eastern United States. But USGS research ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith wanted to know how big of a problem is it in western states, including Idaho.  He led a comprehensive study that was released earlier this month, showing widespread mercury contamination.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

As KBSX reported Wednesday, the biggest health risk associated with high levels of nitrates in drinking water is a condition called methemoglobinemia, which can make infants six months and younger sick. Babies who drink formula using nitrate-contaminated water are at risk of developing the condition.

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

"Nitrate" may as well be a four-letter word in the small town of Ashton, Idaho.

The eastern Idaho town of 1,200 people is about 20 miles from the border of Wyoming. Settlers in the area in the 1890s quickly took advantage the fertile volcanic soil beneath their feet, and began diverting water to irrigate the land. Seed potatoes are the big cash crop, though wheat, barley and hay also contribute to the local economy.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The City of Boise is holding a celebration today for the opening of a new public works facility. But the facility isn’t in Boise. In fact, it’s a county away. And it’s meant to do something cities don’t normally do: Clean water polluted by agriculture. It’s called the Dixie Drain project and KBSX's Adam Cotterell has reported on it in the past. Adam told Scott Graf what the Dixie Drain project is.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A coalition of groups and individuals concerned about the health of the Boise River has released an enhancement plan and wants public feedback. The Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN) says the natural resource needs serious help in four areas: water quality, fish habitat, riparian areas and the river channel itself. BREN wants cities, counties, farmers and others who rely on the river to work better together to protect it.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

In the middle of working farms between the towns of Notus and Parma, the city of Boise owns a 49 acre field. In March the city plans to start construction there on a unique project to reduce phosphorus in the Boise and Snake Rivers. It's generally referred to as the Dixie Drain Project.

The site for the upcoming project is close enough to the Boise River that you can see the trees along its banks a little to the north.  In the other direction there’s a bluff that disappears into the horizon. But the key feature is the water that runs through the site and empties into the river.

MHall209 / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho's $2.4 billion dairy industry is no longer at risk of losing its operating permits if caught illegally dumping waste into streams and waterways.

The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee approved new rules Tuesday that would no longer allow the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to revoke a dairy facility's permit if caught illegally discharging wastewater or sewage. Instead, dairies would face a fine up to $10,000.

The rules are in compliance of a law that Idaho Republican lawmakers passed in 2014.

deq.idaho.gov

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) this week released several reports on important aquifers around the country. Idaho’s Snake River Plain Basin features in two of those reports. About a fifth of Idahoans rely on that aquifer as their only source of drinking water.

Kevin Micalizzi / Flickr Creative Commons

The United States Geological Survey recently studied nitrate levels in streams around the country. The study found that nitrate – which can be dangerous in drinking water – can affect water systems for decades.

Although none of these study areas were in Idaho, Michael Lewis says the study is worth a closer look.

USGS Losing Some Critical Stream Gauges

May 3, 2013
Aaron Kunz / Earthfix

A federal agency is planning to shut down down as many as 150 stream gauges nationwide. The first round of closures started this week. Those gauges provide life-saving flood warnings and even how bad a drought is.

Stream gauges are tools that help monitor how much water is in our rivers and streams. These are small outbuildings standing beside waterways. Each one shelters data-gathering equipment.

David Ascher / Flickr

How much fish do you eat every week?  That’s a question Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality wants to answer.  The agency has asked state lawmakers for funding to study that question. 

For Sale Coldwell Banker House Sold
Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

As many as 80 residents of a west Boise neighborhood got sick over Memorial Day weekend. Turns out a nasty bacteria got into the drinking water. Boise’s United Water says it did everything in its power to fix the problem, but  some in the neighborhood say the company could have done more.