Grow Houses With Snake River Water

A Boise engineering firm has beensoliciting developers to fund a $1.5 million feasibility study to take 368 acre feet a day from the Snake River so more houses can be built on the desert between Boise and Mountain Home.


It appears to the GUARDIAN that all the “planned developments” are mere pie in the sky and there is not a water supply for all those planned developments that Team Dave and Ada County are touting for the area South and East of Boise…at least that is what SPF Water, an engineering firm specializing in water issues, is saying.

They note that limited ground water could “drastically limit development” of the area between Southeast Boise and Mountain home. The solution, according to these growthophiles, is a pipeline up to 5 feet in diameter to pump water from the Snake. The estimated cost–if it ever happens–is upwards of $400 million. While the growthophiles may come up with funds for the study, you can bet any construction of pipelines will come from the rest of us.

Based on figures provided by the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the 120,000,000 gallons of water (368 acre feet) currently provides irrigation to 21,000 acres of farm land. There is no more water in the Snake River to be allocated, so for this plan to work, it will take water rights already owned by someone else.

Idaho Power will be faced with the question of endorsing less water passing through their profitable dam turbines or more houses consuming profitable dam electricity.

Rather than thousands of eager buyers standing in line to purchase homes, we feel the greedy developers are working at ways to acquire rights to our public water in an effort to increase the population and create the need for more highways, cops, schools, sewers, and all the rest that comes with more bodies.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. I just read your piece on water and development in south Boise and east to Mountain Home. This idea of pumping water out of the Snake River is an absolute ridiculous idea.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the ordeal in the Magic Valley with
    source and groundwater users. That issue could likely become another Klamath Falls like situation. Then there is the proposal in Bruneau to build a nuclear reactor which will likely consume vast amounts of water.

    So I guess at the end of the day what is more valuable new homes, farmland, or a nuclear reactor? Complex issues need to be addressed and we must look beyond the dollar signs as many communities in the Treasure Valley are not doing. County and City planners/commissioners can’t look past the dollar sign especially when it comes to planned communities. If we don’t plan sustainable communities we will undoubtedly regret in 5-20 years.

  2. Clippityclop
    Jul 2, 2007, 12:53 pm

    This is why an Adequate Public Facilities ordinance that will put teeth into the new Ada County Comp Plan (now before the Ada County Commission) is critical for sustainable growth. If we, as a community, do not pursue sustainability NOW, they’ll be no going back. Water and transportation are the key issues for this valley — we’ve got to wake up today or we’ll surely pay a hideous price in the near future.

  3. Keep in mind that if United Water is involved in supplying water to any of these out-lying areas (south County, foothills, etc.) that any increased costs cannot be paid by only by the new customers. ALL United Water customers must be treated equally, per the Idaho Supreme Court, so if the rates go up, or water is rationed, we all “share” equally in the pain. Thank you, developers, and a special thank you to all those politicians who approve these far-flung, sprawling communities. More traffic, no water. Lovely.

  4. I live in SE Boise. Does any one else think their water pressure is less than last year? It seems the system we have is already being taxed to its peak.

  5. I guess when Dave Bieter and his “band of brothers” shared their vision of growth south and east of Boise, I guess they didn’t figure we would care that all those people would have to haul water from the river and use outhouses. Gee, kinda like a hundred years ago! Ain’t karma a bummer?

  6. Grumpy ole guy
    Jul 3, 2007, 12:21 am

    I think you’ve all missed the point. We’ll erect wind turbines on the Statehouse Lawn and for the months the Legislature is in session enough wind power will provide the electricity for the new area, plus a lot more, and the water produced by the Legislature’s ability to piss off the voters will take care of the other shortage.

    Obvious, if you’d only think it through.

  7. curious george
    Jul 3, 2007, 8:47 am

    Terry Scanlan (SPF’s principal engineer) proposes something worth evaluating – even if it means ultimately rejecting the concept.

    In Idaho the legal presumption is that all surface water will be allocated for Ag irrigation, and potable water must be extracted from the ground. This curious situation precipitates into some odd circumstances, such as United Water’s recent foray into extracting & treating river water just to inject it into an underground aquifer – so that it can then extract the water (from the ground) so that it can sell to us for dometic purposes.

    I would rather investigate the Snake River proposal now, rather than have it forced upon us (with little scientific analysis) when we’re told our underground drinking water is about to dry up. The laws that are currently inplace to protect senior irrigation water rights can be swept aside with the stroke of a pen, when there are enough voters who are told they have to start rationing their drinking water. Such mad rushes tend to trample individual rights in favor of “hoped-for” results.

    If we don’t look into such a proposal, and objectively weigh its costs & benefits, we could end up inheriting the same kind of scenario that built L.A. and Las Vegas.

    EDITOR NOTE–You are correct on reason for injection wells. Water Resources Dept. won’t allow water to be extracted faster than it is recharged.

    We are also told aquifer must have surface irrigation (from river) to keep recharge rate up.
    Solution of course is to LIMIT GROWTH AND LEAVE THE DESERT A DESERT!

  8. Pat in Boise
    Jul 3, 2007, 10:09 am

    That’s JUST what we need. More sprawling suburbs and more commuter traffic on the parking lot that I-84 already is during rush hour.

    All sarcasm aside, I truly don’t understand who’s buying all these homes they’re building at warp speed in the valley. We don’t seem to have the job growth to support it. Kids moving out of mom and dad’s house? If they’re working $10/hr call center jobs [a lot of the job growth that there is seems to be low paying service sector], I can’t see how they could be qualifying for these $200k “starter” homes.

  9. Drive out Kuna Mora Road from 1-84. They are tilling up sagebrush and irrigating some crops. I assume this is happening for two reasons: mainly to assert their water rights and secondly to maintain an ag exemption as Boise creeps out further.

    Guardian you make good point about robbing water from the Snake does not make good sense(cents). Especially when Idaho Power ask for a rate increase from less power generation. Then there is the minimum flow issues that Idaho Power has to attain for the fish.

    George makes a good point that it might be better to assess additional water supplies now than when we get in a real pinch.

    And Clippity, I think a Adequate Public Facilities Ord. makes the most sense. AFPO’s would be the teeth that most growthophobes are looking for. They basically say “you have the right to develop, but first you must pay/provide this, this and this.”

    I don’t know a lot about Idaho Water Law but expect a war between rural Idaho and metro Idaho.

  10. I, for one, am tired of hearing that growth is inevitable. The study of biological systems would indicate that growth eventually collapses due to lack of resources. This is a painful process that I might think humans could avoid if only we were smarter.

  11. Clippityclop
    Jul 5, 2007, 12:06 am

    Terry’s right. Uncontrolled growth, which outstrips resources, becomes necrotic and causes the eventual death of the organism, has another name: cancer. We need an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance now.

  12. curious george
    Jul 6, 2007, 9:52 am


    An Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance isn’t the Holy Grail you seem to be painting it. Although an ideal APFO will establish Levels of Service for a wide range of public facilities (Roads, Water, Sewer, Schools, Parks, Emergency Services, etc.) it will only require that such services be in place, either at the time a proposed development is approved or within a reasonable number of years from the approval (as stipulated in an adopted Capital Facilities Plan).

    This is light years ahead of where the land use authorities in Ada County are right now and I will applaud the establishment of a wide-reaching APFO, but if you are truly against Planned Communties an APFO won’t stop them. The PC’s processed in Ada County are (currently) the only developments in the region that come even close to paying their own way.

    APFO’s still have to preserve the ability for a land owner to “upfront” the funds necessary to mitigate their proposed development’s impacts on local services. But more to the point, if the Snake River pipeline concept is funded by the landowners whose developments will be using the water then the terms of a water-APFO will have been met.

    APFO’s without this “upfront option” keep urban development contiguous and all services centralized. This ultimately leads to large uninterrupted, undifferentiated urban conglomerations – with each “use” cocooned within a network of circulation roads. To carry the biological metaphore forward, this is the type of growth pattern which is truly a cancerous tumour. Unfortunately, this is more than just a metaphore for urban sprawl since a tumour isn’t necrotic – it continues to grow (show progress) right up until the larger organism (which has been hijacked to supply its lifeblood to the tumour) dies. Some cancerous tissue will continue to grow outside of its host as long as it is “fed”. It doesn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to look around our region and identify “communities” that meet this criteria.

    A growing family isn’t one where the parents are pumped up on steriods and human growth hormone but one that is producing healthy offspring. Each a little human in its own right, with its potential to grow to adulthood without risk of being consummed by a parent or sibling. The type of APFO you’re envisioning would promote unhealthy and ultimately cannabilistic, undifferentiated urban growth.

    When the public was asked, through the visioning process sponsored by COMPASS for the last Long-range Regional Transportation Plan, what kind of future they wanted for the valley they where asked to distribute the projected growth equitably. By an overwhelming majority, they created a pattern of development that allowed existing communities to reach homeostatis (the point of systemic equalibrium which all living things reach when in a healthy state). This affirmed what Treva has written, unlimited growth is not preferable – even if facilitiated by an APFO.

    This left the public with one outlet to distribute all the rest of the projected growth, while keeping the existing communities distinct (surrounded by open space), they started creating new (complete) communities where they thought they would stand the best chance of surviving – in the outlying areas, beyond the reach of the existing communities.

  13. Rod in SE Boise
    Jul 6, 2007, 8:28 pm

    The ultimate limiting factor for growth (growth here in the valley, and human population worldwide) will be water. We will run out of water long before we run out of any other resource needed by increasing populations of people.

    Last I heard, the studies to determine the size and shape of our local aquifers, and their use and recharge rates, were still underway. When they are completed we should be able to quantify the sustainable population for this area, based on how much water is available.

  14. I really must agree with what’s been written. Rather than having Ada County investigating an area within and constrained by reasonable growth policies, let’s stop them now. That way unrestrained growth will continue west of the county, where the new homeowners do not pay taxes for the services they receive from Ada while making traffic far worse. Southeast Ada, served by an underused highway which is all but empty at rush hour and where taxes would actually support the services provided…well that would attract people and must be stopped! Right?

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: