Water Safety

The Idaho Division of Public Health and Idaho’s local public health districts work together to investigate outbreaks of illness associated with drinking or recreational water as well as provide information about well water safety and Harmful Algal Blooms in the area.  

Drinking water

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and Idaho’s seven local public health districts protect public health by ensuring drinking water from public water systems in Idaho is safe. Most Idahoans get their water from a public water system that must meet health-based drinking water standards. 

Safe drinking water is one of the most valuable resources we have. Yet every year, millions of cases of illness associated with public drinking water systems are estimated to occur nationally. People can become ill from swallowing drinking water or from inhaling water from a drinking water supply, for example, while taking a shower. In the United States, the most common causes of reported outbreaks of drinking water-associated illness are bacteria and chemicals.

A distant view of a gorge and waterfall in Idaho
How Safe is Your Well Water?
Check the Idaho Ground Water Interactive Map to determine which contaminants to test your well water for.
Drinking water resources
Private wells

Private wells can be a safe and reliable source of drinking water. In Idaho private well owners are responsible for ensuring their water is safe to drink. All private well owners should test their drinking water to ensure that it is safe to drink and regularly maintain their wellhead.

Some private wells may have high levels of contamination from bacteria, naturally occurring, or man-made chemicals that can be harmful to your health. Use the resources below to find out what to test for, how often to test, and how to keep your water safe.

Recreational water

The Idaho Division of Public Health works with Idaho’s local public health districts to investigate outbreaks of illness associated with drinking or recreational water. 

Recreational waterborne illnesses result from swallowing, breathing, or having contact with recreational water. Recreational water is any water which is used by a significant number of persons for recreation or play such as in natural or artificial bodies of water and man-made facilities.

Recreational water use is associated with significant benefits to health and well-being. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted a steady increase in the number of reported outbreaks of diarrheal illness associated with recreational waters. These reports suggest that spread of illness through aquatic venues occurs routinely during the swimming season.

 

Recreational water resources
Harmful algal blooms

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are made of cyanobacteria that can produce toxins which can harm humans and animals. HABs can occur in waterbodies in Idaho when water temperatures and nutrients increase, and cyanobacteria rapidly increase in number producing a bloom. Blooms can be blue, bright green, brown, or red and may look like paint, foam, scum, or mats on the surface of freshwater lakes and ponds.

People and animals can be exposed to HAB toxins by swallowing or touching the water during recreational activities, such as fishing, swimming, water skiing, or when eating fish from a bloom. Exposure to HABs may cause skin and eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes death. Keep your family and pets safe by avoiding water with a bloom.