Groundwater: Keeping It Clean

An Essential Source of Drinking Water

The vast majority, upwards of 95%, of Idahoans rely on groundwater as a primary source of drinking water. In many communities (like the entire Eastern Snake River Plain, the Rathdrum Prairie, and the Lewiston Basin) there is no other economically feasible source of drinking water.

We irrigate with it, we shower in it, we pour our children a glass of it. Even with all these very important and personal needs, groundwater doesn’t enjoy the level of protection that is given to surface water under the Clean Water Act. Without comprehensive protections, groundwater contamination in many parts of Idaho is expected to increase.

In an arid and agricultural state like Idaho this means lots of fertilizer and animal waste percolating down into our drinking water resources. In the Eastern Snake River Plain alone, tens of millions of pounds of contaminants (mainly nitrogen) percolate into the groundwater each year. These contaminates have been linked to some forms of cancer and place babies and pregnant mothers at particular risk.

It is hard to track this pollution and recent research indicates the problems will get worse before they get better. If your drinking water is provided by a municipality or city, the cost to clean up that pollution is passed on to you. If you are on a private well, you are responsible to for providing you and your family with clean drinking water. Cleaning up and protecting our groundwater will only become more important over the next decade.

ICL is working hard to educate Idahoan’s about the importance of this water source and enhance environmental protections to ensure clean drinking water for future generations.

Want to Protect and Conserve Groundwater in Your Community?

  • Get to know the water you drink. Water providers are required to provide a Consumer Confidence Report every year. Whether you get your drinking water from a city or private company, access the report online or call to receive it in the mail. Reading this short report will help you understand exactly where your water comes from and what pollutants are removed to meet standards on clean drinking water.
  • Have your water tested. If you have a private well, it is a really good idea to have your water tested to understand the quality of your drinking water. There are labs all over state that can be hired to accomplish this, and give you guidance on what pollutants you will want to look for in your water sample.
  • Get rid of household hazardous waste the right way—through an appropriate disposal facility or drop-off point. Some communities have helpful resources, like this map of collection sites in Boise. But chances are that you need to contact your county to find appropriate disposal sites throughout Idaho. One thing is for sure: hazardous waste items shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain.
  • If your home has a septic tank, make sure you service it regularly and know how to detect failures.
  • Fix leaky faucets. According to the National Ground Water Association, one drip a second wastes 2,700 gallons a year. Picture 540 five-gallon buckets of wasted water.
  • Choose water- and/or energy-efficient appliances.

What You Can Do

Become a member today and protect the Idaho you love!