Boise’s Water Supply
A Growing City Strategizes Control of It's Water
by Bob Kent
Geothermal water heated the Natatorium on Warm Springs, completed in 1892. From a 1907 postcard.
Gold strikes in the Bogus Basin caused miners and businessmen to pour into the Boise Valley. As a community started to emerge, the founders and city planners began to look at the many needs of a prosperous growing town. Boise’s water supply became one of those issues. The short timeline below reveals some of the important dates surrounding the development of the city’s water supply. A more in-depth paper, looking at the history and legal issues surrounding the water supply, can also be found at the bottom of this display.
1863–Vallisco Water Supply applied to the legislature for a charter and commenced work on two ditches
to supply water to the Boise Valley.
1869–A large cistern was constructed in front of the Overland Hotel to supply water for fighting fires.
1875–A municipal water system was the subject of discussion and the newspaper recommended looking
at the possibility of using artesian wells as a source of water for the City.
1879–A water supply for the City was again discussed and the newspaper advocated using a spring in
Hull’s Gulch to supply water to the City.
1881–H. B. and B. M. Eastman installed a water system for the Overland Hotel. This was the first piped
water system in Boise.
1882–The Boise City Water Company Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Territorial Secretary.
1886–The City of Boise discussed installing a municipal-owned water supply system. Options included
using water from the Boise River above town, a ditch from Cottonwood Creek or by artesian wells.
1887–In June 1877, the Idaho Territory Legislature passed Statute 2711 which established methods
to regulate the setting of rates that private water supply corporations could charge for water.
1889–On October 3, 1889, the City of Boise passed Ordinance No. 94 which granted a franchise to
the Eastman brothers to lay pipes in the city streets and supply domestic water to the city.
1890–Nathan Falk, Frank Coffin, Tom Davis and John Lemp incorporated the Artesian Water and Land
Company. The City passed Ordinance No.100 giving the Artesian Water and Land Company permission
H. B. Eastman, T. Regan, Peter Sonna, C. W. Moore, Alfred Eoff and W. H. Ridenbaugh incorporated
The Boise Water Works Company purchased 10 acres near the penitentiary from Robert Wilson
1891–On March 27, 1891, the Boise Water Works Company and the Artesian Water and Land Improvement
Company consolidated into a new company, the Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company Limited.
1892–The Boise Natatorium opened on May 25, 1892. It was supplied with hot water from the new hot
water wells near the Penitentiary.
1895–During the late 1890s and early 1900s, the City and the private water supply company were in
constant dispute regarding the charge to City of a set amount each month for water to fight fires.
1895–In 1895 flow from the Artesian wells in Hulls Gulch was insufficient to supply the growing needs of
the City and two large diameter shallow wells and infiltration galleries were dug near the Natatorium.
1904–The City contemplated purchasing the Boise Artesian Hot and Cold Water Co. water system.
1905–On March 9, 1905, the Idaho Legislature amended Section 2711 of the Idaho Statutes to
allow water corporations to charge municipalities for water for fighting fires.
1907–In 1907 the Capital Water Company was formed. The gravity system was supplied with water from
the Boise River via the Cruzen Ditch.
1912–The city was supplied with water from two separate systems. The Boise Artesian Hot and Cold
Water Company and the Capital Water Company.
1913–In 1913 the Public Utilities Commission was formed to regulate domestic water supply rates.
1921–In 1921, a typhoid outbreak occurred in the City and on January 11 temporary chlorine
equipment was installed on the system.
1928–On April 2, 1928, the Boise Artesian Water Company was reorganized as the Boise Water
Corporation, and in July became affiliated with General Water Works Corporation.
1938–In 1938 the Boise Water Corporation was issued a 30 year franchise to supply water in the
City of Boise.
1955–The PUC issued Willow Lane Water Company a Certificate of Convenience to provide water to
a subdivision adjacent to the southwest boundary of the City of Boise.
1959–On April 6, 1959 the Willow Lane Water Corporation was reorganized as the Capitol Securities
Water Corporation. Eventually the areas served by Willow Lane were annexed into Boise.
1964–The Capital Securities Water Corporation was issued a 25-year franchise.
1978–The franchise to Boise Water Corporation was renewed for 15-years.
1981–Two Geothermal wells were drilled near the Capitol building and by 1982, nine state buildings in
the capital complex were being heated by geothermal water.
1988–In 1988 the City of Boise purchased Boise Geothermal, a private company established to provide
hot water to the downtown area.
1991–On July 15, 1991, Capitol Water Securities changed their name to Capitol Water Corporation and
the City of Boise extended their franchise to 2015.
1994–The Boise Water Corporation became affiliated with United Water Resources when the General
Water Works Corporation and United Water Resources merged.
1995–In 1995, Boise Water Corporation changed its name to United Water Idaho and the water
supply franchise was extended to 2015.
2004–The domestic water for Boise was supplied by two private water supply companies, United
Water of Idaho and Capitol Water Company.
For a more detailed chronology of Boise’s water supply, click here. (Link to PDF version of full Chronology).