Pocatello Water Department Frequently Asked Questions

Where does my water come from?

Pocatello extracts ground water from the Lower Portneuf River Valley Aquifer using deep wells that pump water from the aquifer. Currently there are seventeen wells in production capable of producing slightly less than forty-five million gallons of water per day. In order to serve customers who live on the benches surrounding Pocatello, water is pumped from the valley floor to twelve water storage facilities with a storage capacity of 21,600,000 gallons.

What's in my drinking water?

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791). The sources of drinking water (both tap water and bottled water) include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs and wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally-occurring minerals and radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity.

Contaminants that may be present include: Microbial contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, that may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations, and wildlife; inorganic contaminants, such as salts and metals, which can be naturally-occurring or result from urban stormwater runoff, industrial, or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining, or farming; pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban stormwater runoff, and residential uses; organic chemical contaminants, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are by-products of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can also come from gas stations, urban stormwater runoff, and septic systems; and radioactive contaminants, which can be naturally-occurring or be the result of oil and gas production and mining activities. In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, EPA prescribes regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water which must provide the same protection for public health.

Do I need to take special precautions?

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. EPA/CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791).

How will I know if my water isn't safe to drink?

You will be notified by newspaper, mail, radio, TV, or hand-delivery if your water doesn't meet EPA or state standards or if there is a waterborne disease emergency. The notice will describe any precautions you need to take, such as boiling your water. The most common drinking water emergency is contamination by disease-causing germs. Boiling your water for one minute will kill these germs. You can also use common household bleach or iodine to disinfect your drinking water at home in an emergency, such as a flood (see EPA's emergency disinfection fact sheet for specific directions on how to disinfect your drinking water in an emergency).

What is the hardness of Pocatello's water?

Pocatello's water is very hard and averages 350 parts per million, which is the equivalent of 20.5 grains per gallon (water above 10 grains per gallon is considered hard). Water hardness is mainly caused by an excess of calcium and magnesium in the water. Hardness is reported as the equivalent amount of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Scale formation and excessive soap consumption are the main concerns with hardness. Consumers may notice an increased difficulty in cleaning and laundering tasks, decreased efficiency of water heaters and other water-using appliances, and white/chalky deposits on dishes. While these problems can be frustrating, water hardness is not a safety issue. Hard water is safe for drinking, cooking, and other household uses. A water softener may address many concerns associated with hard water, but it is not recommended to drink soft water.

Does the City of Pocatello fluoridate the water?

Nationally, fluoridation continues to be a heated topic of discussion. According to the American Water Works Association, fluoridation of drinking water is endorsed by the American Dental Association and U.S. Public Health Service. When used at the recommended levels, fluoride is considered safe and effective in preventing and controlling tooth decay. Consuming high concentrations of fluoride can cause a condition called dental fluorosis which can cause teeth to become mottled and fragile. Opponents argue that because fluoride is a carcinogen they should have a choice in the matter and do not want it added to their drinking water. Others believe that a topical application (fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinses) is more beneficial than ingesting fluoridated water.

In any event, neither side can deny the fact that only a small percentage of the total amount of water produced is actually consumed. In residential use alone, the vast majority of water is used for irrigation, laundry, washing dishes, personal hygiene, flushing toilets, etc. The philosophy of the Pocatello Water Department is that the tremendous equipment expense and maintenance costs do not justify a system-wide fluoridation program to provide treatment that only benefits a small segment of its water consumers.

How can I get my water tested?

The cost of testing water can be quite expensive, depending upon the number of contaminants you are concerned about. Before you consider hiring a private laboratory to test your water, results for regulated constituents found in Pocatello's municipal drinking water are listed on the water quality table in the Annual Drinking Water Quality Report and annual results for all chemical analysis conducted in recent years, including any unregulated constituents, can be found under Chemical Analysis Reports.

For a list of state certified laboratories, contact the State of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality at 208-236-6160.

Why does Pocatello flush its fire hydrants?

It almost seems counterintuitive to waste water by flushing fire hydrants. However, it is necessary to periodically flush water through the main lines in order to protect the quality of your drinking water. The volume of water that is released through a fire hydrant quickly flushes off sediment that accumulates on the bottom of the water mains and helps keep the water in the system fresh and clean.

It is virtually impossible to flush off all of the sediment and if you open your taps during or immediately following an event in your neighborhood, you may notice that your water has a dirty appearance because the suspended particles have not had time to settle. Turn on a cold water tap and let the water run for several minutes to flush off your water lines. If you inadvertently run your hot water before discovering the problem, you may want to flush your hot water tank by opening the valve at the bottom of the tank.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused by our flushing program. If after running your cold water a few minutes does not result in clean water, please contact the Water Department Repair Shop at 208-234-6182.

Why does my water have a dirty or milky appearance?

When water service is restored after being turned off for repairs, the sediment that accumulates at the bottom of the water line becomes suspended lending a dirty appearance to the water. It is safe to drink but may not be aesthetically pleasing. The milky appearance is caused by trapped air bubbles in the water which can be effervescent. If you set the glass aside for a few minutes you will notice that the bubbles disappear and the water becomes clear.

What is a consumer confidence report and why does the city mail the report to customers?

In 1996, Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a mandate to require that all community water systems deliver a brief annual water quality report to its customers. These Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR's) include information on source water, levels of any detected contaminants, compliance with drinking water rules and educational material. This mandate requires utilities to make a “good faith” effort to reach non-bill-paying consumers about their drinking water. For instance, consumers in mobile home parks and apartment complexes served by one common meter do not receive a utility bill and may not subscribe to the newspaper. Mailing the reports to all postal patrons ensures that the City of Pocatello Water department has fulfilled its “good faith” obligation. The report is also available online. Click to view the report: Annual Drinking Water Quality Reports.

Do you recommend installing a home water treatment unit?

The Pocatello Water Department meets all EPA drinking water regulations; therefore, it is not necessary for most people to treat their drinking water at home to make it safe.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a home water treatment unit can improve water's taste, or provide an extra margin of safety for people more vulnerable to the effects of waterborne illness. Consumers who choose to purchase a home water treatment unit should carefully read its product information to understand what they are buying, whether it is for better taste or a certain method of treatment. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for operation and maintenance - it is especially important to change the filter on a regular basis.

For more information download the EPA booklet: Filtration Facts. EPA neither endorses nor recommends specific home water treatment units. EPA does register units that make germ-killing claims.

How can I participate in important decisions regarding my drinking water?

The City of Pocatello Water department encourages public interest and participation in our community's decisions affecting drinking water. Regular Pocatello City Council Meetings occur on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month beginning at 6:00 p.m., at 911 North 7th Avenue in the City Council Chambers. The agendas for these meetings are posted on the bulletin boards at City Hall, and online at the Agenda Center.

How can I contact other agencies regarding drinking water?

For more information regarding drinking water click on the website links listed below: