Boise Watershed: Fire and Ice

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In the West, water and power have been the biggest hurdles to overcoming an arid, rocky landscape. In the Manifest Destiny days, we relied on fossil fuels and rudimentary water sluices, irrigation techniques. It was a dry, difficult life.

But in Boise, we have long utilized geothermal energy as one means of heating our homes, and keeping the lights on. We can monitor water as it trickles out of the hills and from the ice packs, clean it, purify it and reuse it. Careful management of the rainfall and water in the area is essential to serving the population with drinking water.

The Boise WaterShed is offering a workshop on Saturday, Jan. 15 as part of its WaterShed Weekends program to give the skinny on how fire and ice work together. The rain cycle is more than just water trickling down out of the clouds: the precipitation gets locked in snow packs, and eventually works its way into the sweltering levels below us.

That's where geothermal energy comes in. Much like how natural geysers result from cold water hitting hot rocks below, that pressure and steam release can be harnessed for keeping a building warm—without having to burn a forgotten Stegosaurus. Geothermal energy is renewable.

Boise State professor Walter Snyder will give the geological breakdown on how geothermal energy works. Boise City’s Geothermal Coordinator Kent Johnson will show a model of how the city harnesses the energy to heat buildings. And the kids can create an earthquake and monitor the seismometer, make aquifers and watch how material flows through a tabletop groundwater model.

The seminar is on Saturday, Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and afterward attendees can embark on an hour-long tour of the wastewater treatment plant on the Boise River (if weather permits). Need more information? Give the Boise WaterShed a ring at 208-489-1284.

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