Imagine a world where you don’t know if water will flow out of your faucet. A world where you have to choose between watering your lawn or taking a shower. A world where you have to worry about personal survival, as well as survival of livestock and/or crops and gardens. Imagine this happening in developed areas in Idaho, in Canyon County.
100’s OF PEOPLE IN THE LAKE LOWELL AREA HAVE TO CHOSE BETWEEN SHOWERS OR WATERING THEIR LAWN AND YET THE CANYON COUNTY COMMISIONERS CONTINUE TO APPROVE MORE SUBDIVISION DEVELOPMENT IN THE AREA.
WE NEED HELP! This is not an easy thing to say. Nobody ever wants to be considered a victim. Nobody ever wants to feel helpless, especially when you put trust in the people who are supposed to protect you, and they DO NOT. It is even worse when their actions actually exacerbate the situation. This is our story.
Close your eyes and imagine a world without water. It is not a pleasant thought, especially when people cannot exist in such a world. Now imagine trying to live in a world where water availability is sporadic especially during the hot summer months where temperatures can reach 105°-114° near daily. Imagine a world where you don’t know if water will flow out of your faucet. A world where you have to choose between watering your lawn or taking a shower. A world where you have to worry about personal survival, as well as survival of livestock and/or crops and gardens. A world where you have to pray every night that a fire does not occur, because you don’t know if there will be sufficient water to save your house, property or life. Well, I am sad to say, we live in this world and everything that I quoted above is what we regularly live through. Not out in the middle of nowhere, but right here south of Lake Lowell. We are not talking about the 1800s but present day 2023. In an area with farming and small residential spot zoning, nobody should ever have to live under these conditions, but unfortunately, we do.
So, earlier I asked you to close your eyes to focus on a very serious topic. Now I am going to tell you about those who closed their eyes and continue to keep them closed. Over the past two 1⁄2 years, we brought this dangerous situation to the attention of our local government officials in decision-making positions, those who monitor ground water levels and those who decide if building subdivisions is a good idea. Not only have they closed their eyes, but they also turned a deaf ear to our situation. We are the “boots on the ground”, we have provided proof and real-life examples of the damages caused by this lack of reliable year-round water accessibility all the while being told we are not “experts”, so we are NOT considered credible.
We are talking about REAL LIFE ALTERING circumstances that have occurred and continue to occur. People are afraid. They are selling their homes and moving away because they don’t have $100,000 to replace their private well with the latest and greatest that “supposedly” will prevent this problem in the future. People are being forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars to repair and/or replace failing wells, forced to lower their pumps to reach the decreasing ground water level and other expenses, etc. I have donated over two years of my life to this cause and lost a lot of sleep worrying about our situation and my neighbors.
To add insult to injury, not only are our concerns and hardships being ignored, but the same officials, to this day, are continuing to approve new developments in an area known to have water accessibility issues. We are currently aware of over 400 additional homes that have already been approved and not yet built. 4X the already affected homes and additional straws in the drink. These approvals continue even though there is absolutely no information or studies as to the effects of even one new well on an already crippled and fractured water supply needed year-round.
IDWR indicates in writing we have no water issues in this area because the aquifer is recharging at the END of the irrigation season. IDWR does NOT provide data during the irrigation season, ie., the summer months when the aquifer is the lowest and the demand for water is the greatest. But in writing, tells homeowners having water supply issues to turn off their water for a few hours or a few days and the aquifer should recharge. Water is necessary for survival. People and livestock cannot go for days without water. A “dry well” to IDWR does not mean the same to you and me. When I turned on my water last summer, nothing came out of my kitchen faucet. I turned it off and it sputtered, but again, nothing came out. I was so frustrated I just turned it off. I am the first home on the water supply line. To me, this is a dry well, even if just temporarily. Last summer a neighbor in our community asked us all to stop watering our lawns so she could take a shower (she is near the end of the water supply line). We are on a community well with 33 other homes and have a much stronger pumping system than a private well and yet we are experiencing water supply issues. To replace a community well, our neighborhood is looking at $500,000. That is if we can get a well driller to drill in this area and then there is a waiting period. Did I mention we have two wells? Oh, and let’s not forget that one of our commissioners refers to this area as the “pit of no recharge” and another wouldn’t buy in our area because they were aware of the water issues. Historically, the BOCC continues to allow development ignoring the boots on the ground about water and lets not forget about saving our farmland.
IDWR is responsible for certifying well drillers but is only required to inspect 30% of the wells installed. Last year 5,000 wells were installed; 1200 inspected. Um, help me out, do our building departments only inspect 30% of framing, insulation, plumbing, roofing, electrical, HVAC, etc? Nope. Water, the most important life sustaining resource, is not protected and therefore, neither are homeowners. There is no standard of well construction (other than it must produce water and must be sealed) so unsuspecting new homebuyers are potentially having inferior wells for our area installed. IDWR knows it but believes they would eventually hear about a well driller providing substandard work, but not until the damage has been done to the homeowner of course. IDWR did not have monitoring wells in our direct area until a resident had to replace his well (even after having it lowered previously) and he agreed to have monitoring equipment installed. His monitoring graph shows the aquifer dropped nearly 100’ and is not recharging as quickly after the irrigation season.
IDWR is sure the issues we are facing are due to poor well construction for this area; IDWR, the agency that certifies well drillers, inspects wells and monitors the aquifer. Who is protecting us who bought here after the fact while all the new subdivisions put in better, newer, strong wells and pumps? Don’t forget we still don’t have historical impact data on the homes not yet built.
Let’s talk about safety. We have a volunteer fire
department, and many are in rural areas around Canyon County. Thank you to our fire fighters! For a time, in- home sprinklers were required to help save lives in the event of a fire. Additionally, hydrants were installed
in subdivisions with water rights. An accidental propane tank explosion caused life threatening injuries to a man and the hydrant, directly adjacent to the explosion was not producing water so the house burned to the ground. To make matters worse, the fire department came to our hydrant to pull water for this nearby neighborhood and the rate of pumping caused our well pump to overheat and burn up because it could not keep up with the water demand. That replacement cost was borne by the residents of my community, no one else. Fires don’t discriminate, they don’t care what time of the year it is, they don’t wait to make sure water is available. Hydrants and in-home sprinklers only work if there is enough water pressure to run them.
Safety issues continue from the aspect of clean drinking water from our taps. In the past two years we have had potable water restrictions in place due to e-coli in our water. We have a community well that requires regular testing. Private wells do not. A nearby neighbor on a private well had her well tested and learned it had high levels of arsenic, enough to have the EPA notified. Nothing was done to protect this taxpayer. They were told to put in a reverse osmosis system to the tune of $10,000. And for those of you who do not understand how those work, it takes two gallons of water to produce one gallon of clean water. While safer to consume, not helpful in areas where water accessibility is an issue. Regular filters from your fridge or in- line under your sink do nothing in this area. We personally have lost three beloved pets to cancer while living in our home. Our vet asked where we live and said to start using bottled water for the others.
Because we are rural, we also have a local business literally two properties away that operates as an aerial applicator for local farms aka a crop duster. For several years they have had water retrieval issues during the irrigation season but 2022 was the worst. They could not retrieve water, water that is required for mixing product for application. Farmers had to bring water to them so they could fulfill contracts for application. In the case of this crop duster, the urban expansion into rural areas has and continues to restrict their flight path; eventually they won’t be able to fly. Their very livelihood is being jeopardized by the approval of these subdivisions and yet the decision-making bodies are not listening.
We are not against development, but believe responsible growth is necessary. There are so many subdivisions approved and not yet built that the impact on our natural resources is unknown. That is irresponsible. The county/city is not assuring adequate infrastructure is available BEFORE residential development occurs. Additionally, we believe that landowners should be able to do what they want with their land under the classification in which they purchased it. Development should never be a guarantee, but access to year-round water should be. A farmer should be able to sell his land for whatever amazing amount he can, but development of that land should be conducive to the area without raping it and causing harm to existing homeowners. Everything should not require civil action by way of a lawsuit to hold county officials responsible. We already pay them to operate on our behalf, to protect our safety and way of life, but now we have to spend $40,000 to protect our rights they were supposed to protect in the first place.
Finally, we have an issue with the Wild West and the Good Ol Boys (and girls) Club here in Canyon County and probably across the state of Idaho. I know, you are absolutely shocked. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of really great people working for these agencies, but the laws are set up to keep people like you and me from successfully holding others accountable because it is cost prohibitive. Who has $40,000 lying around? We certainly don’t. In fact, most people who live in this area are farmers, retirees on fixed incomes, struggling small business owners. Successful opposition seems unsurmountable, so most individuals give up and the county continues to violate, bulldoze and/or not protect the rights of the existing homeowners as they allow development of lands around us without conducting due diligence to assure year-round water and certainly are not following the due process laws like in the matter we currently face to protect both the developer and interested parties such as ourselves.
I come to you, we, a group of over 100 people, come to you asking for your help. We must raise $40,000 to be held in trust for the attorney to take our case. We have already raised $8,900. A judicial review before District Court 3 is time consuming more than anything. I believe in this attorney who is also a small-scale farmer. To try and correct some of the wrongs going forward, I am also meeting with our legislators to try and better protect citizens throughout this process, not just in Canyon, but counties across this state. The laws are vague and do not require these decision-making agencies to provide layman direction, dates and certainly not transparency or protection throughout the process.
We only have a few more days to raise the money or the attorney cannot file the action within the deadline required by statute. We need your help! I have created a GoFundMe page https://gofund.me/155b995f that allows for transparency for all. Donations can be anonymous, or you can get credit for standing up for the cause, either way, we would be so grateful. It takes a community to make a difference please help us make a difference!
TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!