Irrigation Proposal Makes Sense

Monday’s mail provided an “official check” from the Nampa Meridian Irrigation District in the amount of $4.78 and a note saying the Board of Directors had reviewed the plight of Brian Bandhauer and waived the taxes previously paid by the GUARDIAN.

As a certified GROWTHOPHOBE, we have given the issue of charging homeowners for water they can’t receive or use a lot of thought. It is simply wrong to hold their homes hostage with threat of liens and foreclosure because of old law.

Don’t be surprised if you see some proposed legislation regarding irrigation water during the next session. Given the general pro business and anti citizen view of many legislators, this could be a hard sell. The GUARDIAN thinks all politics are local, so why not put the pressure where it will be felt?

As an alternative we hereby suggest to the Ada Commishes a simple ordinance or “condition” for approving any new development as follows:


This simple act would preclude developers from snookering buyers into situations like the one which trapped the Bandhauers, who didn’t even know they owed a water tax.

Such an ordinance at the county level would be easy to pass:
–it would benefit homeowners who are forced to water their lawns with costly domestic water

–it would help the environment by not wasting irrigation water

–it would conserve domestic water supplies

–it would be cost effective for home owners

–it would benefit irrigation districts because people would not “opt out”

–It would be the same as providing sewer, water, gas, and electricity

Only greedy developers wishing to take advantage of would-be buyers are likely to object.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Congratulations Guardian! As Pancho said, “One more windmill has fallen to the mighty Quixote!”
    The only problem I can see with your position is I am not so sure the water district could deliver the water to everyone it currently charges. In fact, I would bet on it!
    I would wish you a Happy New Year but I fear ’08 will be even more exasperating than ’07 was.
    Happy New Year anyway!!

  2. Aren’t these folks also part of the lawsuit to dry up the Boise river during the winter?

  3. Good idea, Guardian. Where were you 30 years ago?

  4. We did have something of the sort 30 years ago.

    I am pretty sure that a recommendation similar to Dave’s was part of the Ada County Concept Plan, completed with heavy citizen involvement in 1976. I believe that some part of that recommendation was included in the Boise Comprehensive Plan, which was based on that work.

    During the 1980s however, much was changed, plans were re-written and the 1970s were consigned to history. I don’t believe Ada County did enact anything about irrigation. I’m quite sure no one in Ada County government today would even remember the recommendation.

    Perhaps it is time to review what has gone before and see what might be adopted or adapted for the present.

  5. LOL, a check for $4.78. I wonder how much it cost the district rate payers for the bureaucrats to process that. Back in 1980 the cost of sending a letter was over $20 in labor and material. With the cost of placing a lien, the cost of removing the lien (at least I hope it was removed) and all the other internal costs associated with this issue I don’t think the patrons of the NMI district have been served well.

    I have to agree with Dave that the onus should be on the developers to provide a method for delivering irrigation water. The technology is simple and relatively inexpensive at the development stage but can be a nightmare to retrofit.

    Speaking of technology if you think the laws and bureaucracy regarding water rights are archaic, the technology of the delivery system is almost prehistoric. The Romans and ancient Peruvians had more efficient methods. If all involved would drop the litigation over water rights and spend the same amount of time and money involved in improving the bureaucracy and technologies involved in delivering water and eliminate the waste there would be water enough for all at a fair price.

  6. Re : “As a certified GROWTHOPHOBE, we have given the issue of charging homeowners for water they can’t receive or use a lot of thought.”

    Don’t rightly see what this has to with growthophobia. Seems to me more like you’re a thiefophobe — cuz charging for a product they don’t provide is just plain theft. And doing it by force of a lien makes it robbery.

    Actually, your suggestion is a good one — but it wouldn’t necessarily stop the dreaded growth, it seems it sure would stop the theft/robbery if enforced.

    Of course, we all know that if it became law and a developer then built a subdivision without provisions to provide the water, neither the city nor the county — nor, for that matter, the state nor the feds nor the U.N. — will say, well, tough, Mr. developer, you’ll just have to tear down your subdivision and not rebuild it until you do it legally.
    That has never happened, and I doubt that it ever will.

    EDITOR NOTE–The idea was that if the developer had to spend money to provide water, the cost of subdividing may be just enough to discourage a development or two.

  7. snip…
    The only problem I can see with your position is I am not so sure the water district could deliver the water to everyone it currently charges. In fact, I would bet on it!

    This is the most interesting comment to me. As land is developed and water is not provided, more water becomes available for those who can access it. I am pretty sure the districts don’t give up the water right for that developed land. I am curious who uses more irrigation water-a quarter-acre residential lot? or a quarter-acre field?

  8. Meridan Mike
    Jan 2, 2008, 1:23 pm

    Reducing growth is good. Not charging new homeowners for water they don’t receive is good. Pouring water onto the dirt surrounding our homes, in the hopes that we can make it look as green as other states that receive 3 or 4 times the rainfall that we do is not good, though. Xeriscape is a lot better idea around here. Good clean water, whether it comes from the Boise River or out of the wellhead, should be high priced, Dave…it’s a rare and valuable commodity. I think you missed this one. Let’s not force developers to provide something that shouldn’t be provided.

    EDITOR NOTE–MM, can’t agree that we “missed” on this one. We agree with xeriscape concept, but if the land already has a water right, we suggest using that irrigation water INSTEAD of domestic water or further depletion of the aquifer. We are not really very far apart.

  9. Seems to me like Idaho Code 31-3805 (Delivery of Water) is pretty simple to understand. There is a process in the code to handle all the situations mentioned throughout this and other posts regarding the NMID handling of this ordeal.

    I can’t speak to the specifics of the Bandhauer’s case, but it seems to me that if their lot was created after 31-3805 was adopted, then somebody (seller) broke the law. Funny thing about our law, IC 31-3806 explains the ramifications for violating IC 31-3805. I don’t think we need more laws, maybe just a better understanding of the process to enforce current law. I think the seller, buyer (Bandhauer’s), NMID, and the land use agency all have some responsibility to understand and comply with the law. In response to Gordon…you may be correct that the “city nor the county — nor, for that matter, the state nor the feds nor the U.N.” will stop the evil developer, the state has at least told the individual buyer how to prevent themselves from being “trapped” as the Guardian thinks the Banhauers were.

    In response to Eric’s question about the water consumption by different land uses (farming vs residential) or gravity vs. pressure irrigation…Flow meters throughout the subdivisions and field of the valley show a roughly 35-40% higher use by the residential users. Obviously they don’t (atleast shouldn’t) exceed their allocated water right, but they use every last drop of it every day they can. Farmers tend to be a little more responsible with their water and use only what their crops need. Us lovely single family dweller types have no end to our “thirst”.

    And a couple of quick points about the original story. Guardian you finish by telling of the benefits of your proposed law that already exists…I don’t see how any home owner is “forced” to water with costly domestic water as they can always stop using the water and xeriscape….I don’t see how providing irrigation water to more households will help prevent the waste of irrigation water and help the environment…I don’t see the cost benefit to a home owner who now gets to buy a more expensive lot with irrigation system installed(unless you assume that developers are so charitable they won’t pass the irrigation system costs on to a buyer)…and I don’t see the harm to the irrigation district if someone “opts” out.

  10. My friend Ateam88, you are correct that 31-3805 is fairly clear but it still allows for lots to be unserviced by water. Below is a brief synopsis of the bill.

    Statement of Purpose of 1976 House Bill No. 593
    which created $ 3 31-3805 and 31-3895:
    provides three options subdividing:
    1. That irrigation water be transferred from
    the subdivision to other lands;
    2. distribution of water to subdivision lots;
    3. or a written statement to buyers that
    they will not receive water but will receive
    bills even though water is not delivered.

    The Guardian’s refund on his kindness is merely a house that has fallen through the cracks. If you read the statute thoroughly, you will find option 3 must be in a Notice at the time of the Earnest Money agreement before the property is bought. The potential owner should know upfront what legalities they will be getting into before the purchase.

  11. Point to be made. We need the ground water. Wells are being dug deeper and deeper all the time because of the amount of water we use. Isn’t it a good way to replace our ground water.
    Besides it’s cheaper than feeding a French owned company thats taken over our water company’s and charging us those ridicules fee’s. I’m for forcing developers to use the canal water.

  12. I have been feeling hesitant to jump on this bandwagon. I finally worked through why that is.

    Our trouble with NMID combined with all of the other horrible NMID stories we have heard over the last couple of weeks has left us wanting NOTHING to do with NMID anymore. Dave’s proposal here means all new homeowners will fall under NMID’s power umbrella.

    The positives are cheaper water and getting to use what you are already paying for. The negatives are being unable to opt out from NMID and probably heavier use of that precious resource because it is cheaper.

    I was going to opt out immediately. But now that Senator David Langhorst is working on some legislation, I think I’ll hang in for the year to see what happens. If Senator Langhorst is successful with his bill, all district landowners will have an equal vote in irrigation district elections instead of a vote proportional to acreage ownership. True Democracy!

    Most of the fallout from this $4.78 fiasco came in the form of multiple stories of horrible treatment of NMID customers by NMID personnel. The homeowners and small landowners have no cloutr within NMID because they have no votes. That may change!

    How else will NMID be forced to treat all customers with decency and humility?

    EDITOR NOTE–The Langhorst proposal sounds amazingly similar to the U.S. Supreme Court “one man one vote” philosophy. Owners of big houses or commercial properties who pay more taxes don’t get more votes, why should larger consumers of water get more votes?

  13. Clancy,
    I have read the statute quite thoroughly….I don’t think the house in question “fell through the cracks”. I think it wasn’t provided irrigation as 31-3805 allows under option 3. If the Bandhauers received the required notice as outlined in the statute, they have no excuse for not paying the taxes. It sounds like they did not receive the notice, so their seller, according to 31-3806 has exposed himself to being liable for the costs associated with this fiasco, as well as the costs of delivering water. The statute clearly explains all parties responsibilities and liabilities associated with the process.

    I do think it is appropriate to not require every house to be provided with a virtually unlimited supply of water. If we are going to require every house to have it, I think that the water should be metered and people should be held to a more responsible level of use. A $25-$75 per year fee to use as much water as possible is simply ridiculous.

    As to the politics of water districts throughout the valley, I have to agree that NMID, Settlers, and several others tend to treat all their customers in the same ignorant way. There are several in the North end of the valley that actually seem to have adapted to the urbanization of their districts quite well. Wether it is legislated or simply done at the district level, all of the water providers are going to need to understand that their customers are more and more urban than agricultural. As the farmers that love their positions as “water lords” move on to greener pastures the district’s customer service skills will surely improve. I wish I thought the same about the water delivery.

  14. It’s highly unlikely that the Bandhauer’s didn’t receive the required notice since they closed with a title company and said title company provided NMID a copy of the deed of acquisition, (with the incorrect address). Possible but unlikely. The Bandhauer’s should have gone after the title company for their addressing error.
    NMID should stick with liens, foreclosures for pittance amounts are ridiculous.

  15. Regarding xeriscape as a solution – good luck at getting that past the hundreds of homeowners’ associations. I expect that would require rewriting a lot of covenants, conditions and restrictions. Some homes in the North End have done a good job with this solution, but they can get ratty looking really quick, I expect.

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