County water summit
confronts complex issue
Express Staff Writer
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.
could help policy makers in state government determine how groundwater
gets used far into the future.
price of a summer intern, who would collect field data, the model could be
expanded to cover the Wood River Valley.
Falls, Steve Staufer, from the Department of Environmental Quality, is
studying drinking water and public health.
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.
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.
could be a comprehensive plan to protect drinking water in Blaine County,
better monitoring of water and stricter development rules meant to protect
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
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
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.
multi-day event would involve government agencies, businesses, non-profits
and the general public in lectures and breakout sessions on water issues.
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.
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."
maintained septic systems have polluted wells in some parts of the county.
County Drinking Water Protection Coalition, plans to begin work on its
protection plan as soon as the county hires a research assistant.
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.
for better water monitoring was a recurring theme Thursday.
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.
nitrate levels can cause severe health problems in young children.
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.