City Water Issues

AF Water Works Issues – Part 2 July 2021

(Part 1 can be found below)

First off, I have to give a shout-out to the AF Police Department, Power County Sheriff’s Office, and amazing firefighters for the dedication and hard work they give 24/7—and specifically in the last dry, flammable month. These brave individuals run toward danger and disasters instead of away from them. Their vital roles and efforts to protect and preserve all of us come at the expense of their personal time, comfort, and safety. They leave their families at a moment’s notice to serve and save others. They are constantly put in unpleasant, hazardous situations, yet they are relentlessly criticized for doing too much and/or not doing enough. Seeing the inner-workings of first-responders and law enforcement has opened my eyes and given me a new appreciation of the sacrifice required in these lines of work, and I am so SO incredibly grateful.

Independence Day weekend was great, but it felt long for those of us worried about dry conditions and the fire risks posed by fireworks. THANK YOU to those families that respected the high fire risk and the state law prohibiting aerial fireworks. There were a couple small fires, but disaster has been averted for now. The high fire risk will continue on this summer, and I will continue to pray for rain and no more devastating fires!

Heaven forbid there is a large fire in town, but did you know that most of the city water lines don’t meet the minimum required sizing to supply fire hydrants per Idaho State Code? That’s right, the 4-inch pipe under most of American Falls is undersized and out of compliance for fire suppression. Along with that, did you know we are exceeding our water-pumping capacity in the city as it is now? How much help would our hydrants be in a fire if we continue to use water excessively and the pumps are already maxed out when the need arises? These questions keep me up at night.

American Falls owns plenty of water rights to accommodate future growth, but our pumping capacity is at already at its limit because we already use more than twice the state average of gallons of water per person per day….more than TWICE! Its time to have a hard look at water conservation and have a unified effort! We absolutely must cut our water consumption or water meters will be inevitable. I will have suggestions and recommendations for saving water next week and ongoing. For this week, watch how you and your family use water. Do you overwater your lawn? Are their leaks in your home that need fixing? Does your pre-teen wish to shower as long as humanly possible like mine? Start to notice the little things, and it may surprise you.

Our next Water Working group meeting is Tuesday, July 27th at 6:00pm in the Council Chambers in AF City Hall. I invite anyone and everyone who wishes to understand these issues in depth to please join us that evening. Put it on your calendar, and I hope to see you there!

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AF Water Works Issues – part 1 June 2021

I may be a little biased, but American Falls is the best city in the best state of the best country on earth, and life here undeniable revolves around water. We are an ag-community dependent on irrigation and rain, our town was historically displaced by water, mature trees and green spaces dot the area, we recreate on the reservoir above our very own dam, and the school mascot is even a beaver! We recently received the 2021 award for the best tasting water in Idaho, and the resulting conversations and interviews have helped highlight the water issues that weigh on my mind regularly.

In 2019 a water study was conducted for American Falls’ water system, and I became part of the city’s Water Working Group in early 2020. I want every resident to truly understand our two problematic water issues, and I prefer they be addressed sooner than later. I will introduce them now and go into further detail in weeks to come.

Issue #1: The high amount of water consumed by American Falls residents is not sustainable, especially considering projected (and desired) growth in our future. Did you know that we exceed daily pumping capacity in the summer, and we use more than twice the Idaho average of gallons per person per day?

Issue #2: There are approximately 13 miles of deteriorating, undersized, noncompliant waterlines running under our city. Out of sight, out of mind? Not if there is break or downright disaster! There is no way around this one—it must be replaced, but I want to find the most efficient and prudent solution possible.

This is going to be a group effort. I love American Falls and want to keep a good thing going in our green, gorgeous city… that just so happens to have fantastic tasting water! Stay tuned!

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Idaho State Journal: American Falls mayor seeks to raise awareness on water issues after claiming award for best drinking water

Jun 9, 2021

The Idaho Rural Water Association has selected American Falls as having the best water in Idaho for 2021.

The mayor of American Falls hopes to leverage her city’s recent award for having the state’s best tasting drinking water to raise awareness about water conservation and the need to overhaul the deteriorating municipal water system.

The Idaho Rural Water Association selected American Falls as having Idaho’s best tasting drinking water for 2021 at its spring conference on May 26.

A panel of experts judged water samples for their clarity, bouquet and taste. Buhl claimed second place and Jerome finished third.

“We take it for granted in small communities that we have our great spring and great water from the aquifer,” American Falls Mayor Rebekah Sorensen said, “It really is fantastic.”

American Falls draws water from six wells fed by Sunbeam Springs, serving a population of 4,225. IRWA is a nonprofit association comprising 388 water and wastewater systems in the state that primarily serve populations of 10,000 or less.

IRWA will send an American Falls city official and drinking water samples to Washington, D.C., to compete against winners from other states for the national crown. The Great American Water Taste Test is scheduled for February 2022.

Sorensen plans to use the award as an opportunity to start a community dialog about the need to overhaul the city’s aging water infrastructure. Sorensen believes the spotlight on the city’s water quality will also prove useful this summer, when the city plans to start a campaign touting the importance of improving local water conservation.

Sorensen said the city’s water infrastructure consists of “undersized and outdated” 4-inch pipes installed in the 1960s, and the frequency of line breaks has been steadily increasing.

Sorensen said city officials plan to pursue possible grants — especially from the large-scale federal infrastructure bill that’s pending in Congress. She noted her community is already highly taxed and raised its water rates by $5 per month per household last year. She intends to avoid an additional water rate increase and would also like to avoid a bond vote.

But she added, “You can only kick it down the road for so long. If we can find alternative ways to take care of this problem that would be preferable.”

The work would cost about $20 million, according to a 2020 estimate.

Sorensen plans to start a community conservation about the city’s unusually high water consumption. She said the city has “lots of beautiful lawns and green space” but also needs to make certain that it can “keep a good thing going.”

American Falls does not currently use water meters, and Sorensen is not in favor of bringing them in. She hopes to improve the consumption trend through education.

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