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Idaho DEQ Blog

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ Grants and Loans Program streamlines environmental reviews, saving time and money

May 16, 2018

By DEQ Grants and Loans Program

DEQ's Grants and Loans Program conducted a kaizen in May 2016 to streamline environmental reviews and reduce applicant costs. Since then, the program and its grant and loan recipients have seen a successful impact on the application process for DEQ-funded water and wastewater projects.

A kaizen is an effort to make continuous and incremental improvements by evaluating working practices and efficiency to improve productivity or performance. Under the new streamlined process, applicants have noticed rapid turnaround time for project reviews, which has resulted in early project completion and significant cost savings.

Southside Water and Sewer District's drinking water project is a great example. As a direct result of the kaizen process, the entire project planning process, including environmental work, was completed in just under 18 months, compared to the average 26 months. In addition, $13,643 remained of the $40,100 grant, a 34% savings in grant funds.

The kaizen methodology has built bridges between consultants, DEQ, and communities, achieving the primary goal of becoming as efficient as possible while eliminating duplicative steps and reducing process time.



DEQ-funded drinking water system upgrades will save Ashton over $35,000 a year

September 20, 2017

By DEQ Grants and Loans Program

ASHTON - Upgrades to the City of Ashton drinking water system will save the city almost 174,000kWh of energy and 21,700,000 gallons of water every year, also resulting in annual cost savings of over $35,000. The upgrades were made possible with a low-interest loan from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality State Revolving Fund (SRF). The SRF loan process emphasizes reductions to operations and maintenance costs.

The savings comes from the installation of energy-efficient 'green' options the city chose to fund when upgrading their drinking water system. Substantial cost savings from reduced energy bills will rapidly offset the initial cost difference of the 'green' components. Ashton can expect many subsequent years of continued cost savings due to the installation of energy-efficient and water conserving drinking water technologies.

Investigation required by the SRF’s Green Project Reserve Program revealed opportunities to upgrade Ashton’s drinking water system that would provide water and energy conservation. The city’s consultants recommended replacing malfunctioning water meters with an automatic meter reading system to conserve water and save on treatment and pumping costs, installing a variable frequency drive on an existing pump to ensure operation at optimum speeds thereby minimizing energy, and replacing 12,600 feet of leaking distribution pipe saving over 17,000,000 gallons of treated water each year.

To learn more about grants and loans available to wastewater and drinking water systems, visit our Grants and Loans webpage.

Energy-efficient drinking water system upgrades will save Bonneville County homeowners association over $20,000 a year

May 30, 2017

By DEQ Grants and Loans Program Staff

Upgrades to the BlackHawk Estates/Iron Rim Ranch drinking water supply system are expected to save the community over $20,000 per year. The upgrades were made possible with a low-interest loan from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality State Revolving Fund (SRF).

Investigation required by the SRF’s Green Project Reserve Program revealed opportunities to upgrade the drinking water system that would provide energy and money savings.

An in-depth engineering review by the community’s consultant indicated that switching power service to an off-peak schedule and installing a new water storage tank enabling nighttime and weekend pumping operations would reduce power costs for the system by up to 75%.

The community switched to the recommended off-peak schedule, taking advantage of power rates that are approximately one-half of the peak weekday rates. Funded by the SRF loan, Blackhawk Estates/Iron Rim Ranch installed a new water tank, sized larger than necessary for storage requirements, to enabled the recommended nighttime and weekend pumping operations. This new schedule eliminated the power company demand charge, which was half of the current power rate.

For more information on the Green Project Reserve Program, visit


DEQ provides funding opportunities for drinking water and wastewater systems

October 19, 2016

By Aimee Hill, Outreach and Environmental Coordinator, Grants and Loans

Each year, DEQ provides funding opportunities, in the form of grants or loans, to certain eligible drinking water and wastewater systems that are contributing to public health issues. These funds can be used to improve water quality or address infrastructure challenges.

Planning grants provide up to 50% of the cost of project design and construction planning activities (with the grantee providing a matching share from local sources). Grants awarded under this program must be used entirely to prepare facility plans that identify the most cost-effective, environmentally sound methods to upgrade eligible water and wastewater systems to achieve and maintain compliance with state and federal standards. 

DEQ’s loan funds provide low-interest funding—up to 100% of project costs—to design and construct system improvements. Loans also may be awarded to address nonpoint source pollution control activities such as pollutant trading, upgrading or replacing individual septic tanks, restoring wetlands, treating and controlling stormwater, and addressing agricultural runoff. Repayment terms are between 20 and 30 years, and a portion of the loan repayment may be waived.

Do you know a system that may be interested? 

The first step is for a system to call and discuss with the local DEQ regional office staff any issues it may be facing. Next, the system should notify DEQ in writing by submitting a letter of interest (LOI) form to DEQ by January 13, 2017. The LOI form is available here or the DEQ regional offices. Even if a system is on the current (2017) priority list, it still must submit the LOI form for the upcoming year (2018).

After the LOI submission deadline, projects are rated using standardized criteria. All rated systems are then comparatively ranked with other systems around the state. The rankings are compiled in the DEQ grant and loan priority lists. These lists help DEQ determine which projects we can provide financial assistance to, as the demand currently exceeds available funds. Those systems that rank highest and are ready to proceed are notified that they are eligible to apply for a grant or loan at the beginning of the next fiscal year (July 1, 2017). The map below shows the total funding by county over the past 15 years.

To learn more about the LOI process, access the forms, and find your regional office contact, visit the Drinking Water and Wastewater Grants and Loans Letter of Interest Forms for FY 18 webpage.

New Revised Total Coliform Rule takes effect April 1

March 31, 2016

Implementation of the Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) begins April 1, 2016, for all public water systems. All public water systems will transition to the RTCR on their existing total coliform monitoring schedule. Owners and operators need to review and update their existing total coliform sample siting plans and have them available for review during sanitary surveys.

The RTCR did make some minor changes to repeat monitoring requirements for small systems following a routine total coliform positive sample result. Most important, the RTCR emphasizes a “find and fix” approach through performing assessments in order to eliminate potential pathways for fecal contamination. Assessments are required based upon total coliform and E.coli sample results. More detailed information on the RTCR can be found on the Revised Total Coliform Rule webpage.

For questions about RTCR, contact your nearest DEQ regional office or health district that regulates your public water system.

Are water utilities vulnerable to a cyberattack?

February 11, 2016

In a recent GOVERNING article “As Water Utilities Move Online, Hackers Take Note,” columnist Tod Newcombe says water utilities are increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.

“In fact, water utilities were most likely to have reported what Department of Homeland of Security categorizes as an advanced persistent threat, which involves exploiting flaws in software programs that run water valves and controls, among other things. The worst kind of these attacks can go undetected for long periods of time,” he writes.

Read what experts say has to happen in order to protect infrastructure and manage costs to maintain backup systems in Newcombe’s article here.

DEQ ensures measures are in place to protect public health from lead in Idaho’s drinking water

January 25, 2016

Recently, Flint, Michigan was declared a state of emergency due to high levels of lead in their drinking water. In 2014, Flint switched its water source from Lake Huron water provided by Detroit Water and Sewer District to the Flint River. Detroit treats Lake Huron water with orthophosphate which prevents aggressive/corrosive water from leaching metals from pipes, namely lead from lead service lines and internal home lead plumbing. Flint did not add a corrosion inhibitor to Flint River water, which caused lead to leach from lead service lines and older plumbing into the drinking water due to the river’s corrosive water properties. The Safe Drinking Water Act limit for lead in drinking water is 0.015 mg/L.

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can damage the brain and kidneys and interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother's bones, which may affect brain development.

When water is in contact with pipes or plumbing that contains lead for several hours, the lead may leach into drinking water. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have plumbing containing lead. New homes may also have lead; even “lead-free” plumbing may contain some lead.

Other sources of lead include lead paint, lead dust, and lead in soil.

DEQ is committed to ensuring measures are in place to protect public health. Staff reviewed past analytical results, new source information, and monitoring schedules to ensure testing and proper notifications were provided to water systems and the public served by those water systems. Lead monitoring schedules are in place and Idaho has had very few instances where additional sampling or measures needed to be taken for aggressive water. There are approximately 15 public water systems that do treat for corrosive water. 

For customers of community public water systems, your annual Consumer Confidence Reports sent to you by July 1 every year from your public water system will identify past lead results. For customers of non-community public water systems you may find your drinking water system’s monitoring results here:

For public drinking water system sampling result information, please visit:

For information on lead in drinking water, please visit:

Tips and Information on Measuring Free Chlorine

April 18, 2014

Operators with water systems that provide chlorine disinfection must test for free chlorine to ensure effective treatment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved test methods for this purpose. Although these methods are simple and reliable, operators can get poor results unless they use proper techniques. This post offers some background information and tips on properly measuring free chlorine.

Small water systems usually use the DPD colorimetric and ITS test strip methods. These test methods use an indicator chemical that develops a color when added to chlorinated water. The color turns darker with higher chlorine residuals. Users compare this color to a color scale to determine the chlorine residual in milligrams per liter (mg/L). If there is no color change, there is no chlorine in the water. If you have color blindness, you may have difficulty reading the true color.

Free chlorine is a stronger disinfectant than other types of chlorine. Systems that disinfect must maintain detectable chlorine residual in the distribution system. A free chlorine residual of 0.2 mg/L meets this requirement. Systems with a contact time (CT) requirement must also maintain a free chlorine residual at the point of entry and/or in the distribution system.

ITS Test Strip Method

 ITS Test Strip Method

DPD Colorimetric Method

DPD Colorimetric Method

For any test field kit, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Check the expiration date prior to use. If it’s expired, don’t use it.

Tips for Sample Collection

  • Keep the sample containers clean and scratch-free. Replace discolored or damaged containers.
  • Take samples only from cold-water taps.
  • Collect samples in the distribution system from actively used connections.
  • Let the water run for a while before collecting the water sample (~1 min.)
  • Fill the sample container directly from the sample tap.

 Test Method Table


Washington State Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health Office of Drinking Water. 2010. Measuring Free Chlorine. DOH331-442. Updated October 2010. Accessed April 3, 2014.

Are you interested in becoming an operator for hire?

October 10, 2012

If you are a licensed wastewater or drinking water system operator who is interested in providing professional services to other wastewater or drinking water systems, we can help.

Go to the Public Water System Switchboard and click on the button titled “Become an Operator for Hire.” From this page, you can authorize DEQ to disclose your name, mailing address, e-mail address, and telephone number to the public for the purpose of finding an operator for hire.

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