City Water Issues

Great news: In August 2023, the Department of Environmental Quality awarded the City of American Falls an additional $2.3 million in loan forgiveness for our Water System Improvement Project! That brings the total federal funds to over $13.7 million for our project that is still in the engineering design phase.

*WATERLINE WEDNESDAY* November 2, 2022

Judicial Confirmation has been approved for the American Falls for the Water System Improvement Project! On Friday, October 28th the Mayor and City Council appeared before the Honorable Javier L. Gabiola with bond attorney Stephanie Bonney and engineer Colter Hollingshead. The petition to seek judicial confirmation was granted for the City to incur debt as an “ordinary and necessary expense” for the Water Project. The meeting and decision was concise and swift, and we are eager to move forward. The City may now obtain the allocated $11.43 million of ARPA funds that should pay for a third of the overall project. Many people have given their efforts, expertise, and dedication to this project thus far, and this is just the beginning. This is a large step in taking care of our problematic infrastructure to ensure safety and growth for the future of our community.

City Facebook post and published in the Power County Press on August 24, 2022:

*WATERLINE WEDNESDAY* A letter from Mayor Sorensen:

       Water rates changes arrive in October, along with sewer and sanitation rate increases. The residential City bill will rise $11—from $94 a month to $105. As previously explained, water rates increases over the next few years will pay for the necessary City Water Project. I am concerned about these rising costs for residents as inflation has hit everyone, including the City’s resources and employees. This situation is uncomfortable for all and not taken lightly.

       Please be assured, over the last couple years I have spent hundreds of hours on this topic alongside the City Council, Water Working Group, Water Superintendent, employees, engineers, and other specialists to research and review numerous alternatives. We are unified and believe we have come up with the most efficient and economical solution to pursue. We acknowledge that this is a significant financial undertaking for everyone, but it is the right direction to take at this time.

       With $12 million of infrastructure funds awarded to this project from DEQ, we cannot afford to wait and miss the December deadline. If we forfeit the funds, the project would still have to happen with the lost $12million coming out of our own pockets. These federal infrastructure funds are a timely blessing and make this daunting project achievable.

       Please visit the City website at to review all of the shared Water Project information over the last year. Feel free to email me at to ask questions or even schedule a time to come to City Hall to view maps, facility studies, and budgets. None of the information is secret. No decision has been made rashly. We live here too and have to pay the same rate increases. We love American Falls and want this community to thrive now and well into the future.


City Facebook post from August 17, 2022:
Clarification from the previous post: The utility bill is divided into 3 charges: Water, Sewer, and Sanitation/Garbage. The residential WATER rate will increase from $36.86 (current) to $40.00… not $40 more to the current bill. To understand how the water rates will pay for the project, please go back and read the *WATERLINE WEDNESDAY* post from July 6th.

Sewer rates need to increase from $51.14 (current) to $57.00. Garbage rates need to increase two more dollars. We’re looking at the total City bill coming to $105.00 a month for residences next year. This is uncomfortable for all and not taken lightly. Inflation has hit everyone – including the City’s material/resources and employees. Sewer and Sanitation have already been losing money the last couple years, and these departments cannot continue to function this way.

We appreciate public engagement and would like as much as possible on this and other issues! It is too bad that anyone feels blindsided by this information, because we have worked for years to inform the community about water issues and the upcoming water project. We regularly reach out in public meetings, on Facebook, Power County Press, and post or mail flyers. We continue to talk to people on the phone, over email, and face-to-face at the grocery store, church, school, anywhere! Tonight was our second public Open House for the project, and we have had a mere handful of attendees at each meeting.

This project and these changes are years in the making, and this daunting process has kept me up at night. We have looked at dozens of scenarios carefully and weighed our options. None of the information is secret. No decision has been made rashly. We live here too and have to pay the same rate increases. We love American Falls and want this community to thrive now and decades down the road. Please read the previous *WATERLINE WEDNESDAY* posts to understand what the project is and why right now. If you’d like, reach out to schedule a time to come to City Hall to view maps, facility studies, and budgets. If you have questions, ask them and let’s get them answered!


City Facebook post from August 17, 2022:
Come to our Water Open House going on for another hour! Come talk about the new Water Rates beginning October 1st to fund our water project.

Residential Use Inside City Limits monthly rate:

– Single-family dwelling: $40.00

– Duplexes, triplexes, apartments, long-term motels, and other multi-family dwelling structures: $40.00 per unit.

– Trailer courts: $40.00 per trailer/unit.

**Residents on the Circuit-Breaker list will not have their utilities increased this year.

**Outside City Limits will be doubled: $80.00/month per unit.

Commercial Use and Other Users Inside City Limits — Monthly Charges by Connection Diameter:

– 3/4″ and 1″ – $40.00

– 1.25″ – $67.00

– 1.5″ – $130.00

– 2″ – $210.00

– 3″ – $420.00

– 4″ – $650.00

– 6″ – $1250.00

**Metered non-residential accounts for high water users will be charged the base rate by the above connection diameter, then $1.15 per 1,000 gallons after the first 15,000 gallons.

**Outside City Limits will be a doubled rate based on connection diameter.

Livestock Water will be $80.00 a month

Returned Check Fee: $20.00

After Hours Service Call Fee: $50.00

*Fire Suppression will not be charged.

Water Service Line Installation Fee (plus time and materials):

1″ – $2,000.00

1.5″ – $3,000.00

2″ – $4,000.00

—-These rates have been published in the Power County Press at least twice!—-


City Facebook post from August 11, 2022:
*WATERLINE WEDNESDAY* We had another 4″ line break yesterday. We appreciate the Water Department’s hard work as these breaks continue to happen more often. New water rates will be implemented October 1st to fund the upcoming Water Project.


City Facebook post from July 13, 2022:

*WATERLINE WEDNESDAY* This map color-coordinated to indicate waterline diameter. See all that blue? Those are the non-compliant 4″ lines, and they ALL need to be replaced!


City Facebook post from July 6, 2022
*WATERLINE WEDNESDAY* Why Judicial Confirmation? Let’s see the numbers!

Judicial Confirmation will guarantee AF almost $12 million in ARPA funds to put toward the $30+ million Water Project. How does this impact your household?

-Current Residential Water Rate: $36.86/month

-Water Rate with ARPA funds: $40/month with yearly increase until $55/month to pay for $18 million loan

-Water Rate without ARPA funds: $55/month with yearly increases until $90/month to pay for $30 million loan

This project is paid through monthly water rates and NOT taxes! If we do not accept the $12 million, the Water Project will still happen and City residents will fund the entire loan. Our project is a perfect fit for these infrastructure grants, so let’s proceed wisely.


City Facebook post and published in the Power County Press on June 29, 2022


There has been so much talk about replacing the undersized waterlines for years, and one of the lesser-known reasons impacts all of us and our firefighters. These photos show the water output from two hydrants, one from a compliant mainline and the other hydrant off an old 4-inch mainline. Obviously the 4-inch waterlines are insufficient for proper fire-suppression. This greatly increases risk and liability and worries the local Fire Department. There are a couple different neighborhoods that risk multiple home losses from a single fire due to poor water flow. A firetruck hooking onto a hydrant from a 4-inch mainline risks collapsing line or causing contamination issues by pulling the water from nearby homes and businesses back toward the hydrant in an attempt to meet demand. The Water Systems Improvement Project would remedy this issue and create a safer American Falls.


City Facebook post and published in the Power County Press on June 22, 2022:

The upcoming AF Water System Improvement Project will be a monumental undertaking. This project has been many years coming, and we’re done talking and ready to act! I am happy to share every scenario, angle, and option the Council and Water Working Group has considered up until this point. News articles and information has been shared regularly, and as always, we want the public to involved and informed because this affects us all. Will the Water Project be inconvenient in many ways? Yes. But is it necessary for health and future of American Falls. Absolutely! Putting off the project for later is no longer an option. We have some incredibly fortuitous funding coming our way, so the time is NOW. Please join us for a Water Project Open House on Wednesday, June 29th from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Council Chambers of City Hall. Come to learn, have your questions answered, and see how the Water Project will impact your home and/or business. I hope to see you there!

***American Falls Water System Improvement Project:

– timeline 2023-2026

– replace 13 miles of poor water lines

– install requires water meters citywide

– establish new well and wellhouse


City Facebook post from June 15, 2022:

Welcome to *WATERLINE WEDNESDAY* where every week there will be new information on the AF Water Project shared here and in the Press! Many changes are coming, so mark your calendar for June 29th to join us at City Hall Council Chambers for an informational Open House from 6-8pm!


Letter from Gary Ferguson published on June 9, 2022:

We are making preparations to start AF’s upcoming Water System Improvement Project. Gary Ferguson has been an asset to the City’s Water Working Group the last few years, and the Power County Press published his letter this week:


In October of 2019 I was invited to join a water working group to aid the city council in making decisions regarding exorbitant water use and needed water infrastructure improvements in American Falls.

The majority of the discussions within the group centered upon summertime water use and 13 miles of badly corroded 4 inch water lines.

Summertime water use in AF is nearly 2 times the state average and in the highest tier of water use per capita in the nation. Yes, we live in a desert, but the city learned that cutting water by 25% in its only metered park showed no negative effect. Metering has proven effective there, and I believe that water meters are the most likely way to reduce summertime water use. The council will still set water fees. If meters are installed, the council will likely set a base rate with additional charges for additional use. Some water bills will decrease, some will stay the same, mine will likely increase. That’s equity.

The 13 miles of badly corroded 4 inch water lines is a problem now but could get much worse. The hydrants we have on those lines cannot be considered fire hydrants, maybe flush hydrants or pet relief stations but fire hydrants must be connected to a 6” line or larger. Annual maintenance of those lines includes multiple water line breaks.

What could be worse? If one of those lines breaks and contamination enters the system, the city could face fines of tens of thousands of dollars per day until corrected and possible civil lawsuits. If the fire department is called to a structure fire they will likely connect to a hydrant. Most structure fires are contained with the water carried on the fire trucks. If additional water is needed and the hydrant cannot provide the water we could lose a neighborhood. We currently have hydrants that you could safely drink from or wash your hands when fully opened.

The options? 1- Do nothing. Kick the can down the road and let another administration deal with it. 2- Try to pass a bond election to fund improvements. 3- Seek judicial confirmation that the water lines pose a health risk and a safety risk and that repairs must be made.

The administration has agonized over this decision, fearing lost friendships and annoying phone calls as well as the additional financial burden imposed on the residents. When we began the discussions, grant money availability was estimated at likely 3% and optimistically up to 10%. At our last meeting we were told that the city may be eligible for a one time only ARPA grant of $11,400,000.00. This with other potential grant moneys could be up to 50% of the project cost. But, yes there is a but, as I understand it in order to qualify for the ARPA grant a project has to be identified, a cost has to be established, and funding has to be obtained by December of 2022.

Fortunately the city has identified a project and its cost. It’s decision time. The administration will be scheduling public appearances at local venues such as Music in the Park and S & R Salmon Barbecue as well as hosting open houses . Watch for them, get informed, express an informed opinion. One of the last comments I heard from a council member at the last group meeting was “we need to do what’s right for the citizens”. What is it?

To the members of the administrations past and present who have worked on this THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

Gary Ferguson


City Facebook post from September 29, 2021
The FFA students from AFHS deserve a big THANK YOU! They did a fantastic job designing an educational flyer about our city’s water issues, and they spent hours personally distributing the flyers to local households last week. If anyone would like to learn more about water in American Falls, the Water Working group is meeting tonight 9/29/21 at 6:00pm in the Council Chambers. Everyone is welcome!

***Just as a note, not all Open House announcements/publications and newspaper articles written about the Water Project are included on this site.

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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