local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 last week
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs



Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8065 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

ski and snow reports


Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



Gary Carr...The Carr Man!

Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

For the week of April 24 - 30, 2002


County water summit confronts complex issue

Express Staff Writer

Two University of Idaho scientists are building a complex computer model to determine how water flows in and out of the Snake River Plain Aquifer through most of south-central Idaho.

The model could help policy makers in state government determine how groundwater gets used far into the future.

For the price of a summer intern, who would collect field data, the model could be expanded to cover the Wood River Valley.

In Twin Falls, Steve Staufer, from the Department of Environmental Quality, is studying drinking water and public health.

Blaine County Citizens for Smart Group and The Nature Conservancy of Idaho would like to develop a computer program that examines how real-estate development affects groundwater.

The list goes on, which is the reason 20 people, representing at least 10 different organizations, gathered last week in Hailey for a summit on water quality and quantity issues. They want to coordinate their projects so they don’t duplicate efforts and so they can help each other.

The result could be a comprehensive plan to protect drinking water in Blaine County, better monitoring of water and stricter development rules meant to protect water sources.

"There are all these agencies working in water in Blaine County, but until we brought them together, there wasn’t much communication," said Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael, who coordinated the summit with Smart Growth.

The five-hour summit, which was the first of its kind, took place at the Old County Courthouse Thursday and resulted in a long list of potential new projects.

One of the most important, would be the creation of an annual conference, beginning in Spring 2003, said Anjie Saunders, executive director of Smart Growth.

The multi-day event would involve government agencies, businesses, non-profits and the general public in lectures and breakout sessions on water issues.

Another project would involve the creation of a Wood River users guide, which would inform people who live and play along the Big Wood River how to protect water quality.

"There’s a good percentage of people in the county who don’t even know they’re on a septic system," said South Central District Health director Bob Erickson. "They moved from out of the area and just assume they’re on a sewage system."

Poorly maintained septic systems have polluted wells in some parts of the county.

The Blaine County Drinking Water Protection Coalition, plans to begin work on its protection plan as soon as the county hires a research assistant.

Commissioner Michael expects the plan to be completed by October, along with several other projects, including the initiation of water quality testing on 15 to 20 new wells in the county, a review of the county’s subdivision ordinance with water quality protection in mind, and a review of data from the U. S. Geological Survey showing a groundwater decline in Ketchum of 1.2 feet from March 1999 to March 2000.

The need for better water monitoring was a recurring theme Thursday.

Anecdotal evidence of water quality problems exist in the county, such as recent testing in Carey that showed nitrate levels at more than two times the maximum allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency.

High nitrate levels can cause severe health problems in young children.

But spot problems aren’t likely to motivate policy changes, commissioner Michael said. Thorough scientific study is needed to show a widespread problem and to get political support, she said.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.