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City of Boise Livability Ambassadors 

Sustainability is deeply embedded in Boise's mission to be the most livable city in the country. To help further the city's mission, Boise launched the Livability Ambassadors Program where selected community members will be joining experts for a series of lessons, tours and discussions designed to expand their knowledge about Boise’s approach to environmental sustainability.

Highlights include guided tours and group excursions to sustainability features:

Group of people standing in front of building

Front Row: Jennifer Ellis, Melissa Nodzu, Michelle Doane, Remington Buyer, Jami Goldman (City of Boise Sustainability Coordinator). Back Row: Steve Burgos (City of Boise Public Works Director), Grae Harper, Shelley Zimmer, Anne Wallace Allen, Nina Schaeffer, Max Stein, Lex Nelson, GiGi Huntley , Crystal Rain, Jesse Simpson, and Ben Nydegger (City of Boise Biosolids Program Manager) Not Pictured: Drew Buckmiller, Jacqeline Garreau, Cinthya Herrera, Mo Valko, Chad Worth

This behind the scenes experience with some of the City of Boise’s unique programs and facilities are intended to spark conversation and inspire action among ambassadors and their social networks and strengthen the community’s commitment to protecting and preserving our resources for future generations.

What Will Ambassadors Do?

During the program, which runs from May - October 2018, Livability Ambassadors will take what they have learned during each tour and give community presentations on their findings, providing information to their community on the impact these environmental sustainability measures have on the City of Boise.

After all tours have concluded, the ambassadors will have a closing ceremony at City Hall, where they will present their findings to city leadership.

How Can I Be An Ambassador?

This year's ambassadors have been selected. However, if you are interested in being a part of next year's ambassadors, the application period will open in Spring 2019.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Twenty Mile South Farm - May 19, 2018

The first excursion the Livability Ambassadors took was a tour of the city's Twenty Mile South Farm. The tour included expert background information from Ben Nydegger, tour of the net zero commercial building, visit to the biosolid holding silos, guided tour of the active growing fields, compost facility overview, and a facilitated deeper dive- big picture- cohort conversation.

What is the Twenty Mile South Farm?

The city owns and operates a 4225-acre farm that receives the solid waste that gets separated at the two main water renewal facilities (commonly known as wastewater treatment plants), Lander and West Boise. After processing, the solid waste -biosolids- act as a rich fertilizer and are used to grow animal feed crops that are then sold, with the resulting revenue helping to offset the costs for the entire water renewal utilities.


Group of people standing in a field

Ambassadors exploring the farm

Group of people in a discussion

Ben Nydegger giving a tour

Building in a field

Building on Twenty Mile South Farm

A new facility was recently opened on the farm, consisting of an office building, maintenance shop, parts warehouse and mechanic shop, and was designed to be energy neutral; in other words, it offsets the energy consumed on-site with energy produced using solar panels and a geothermal ground loop energy system used for heating and cooling help make the building more efficient. The farm building is Idaho’s first commercial net-zero building and is a model and educational tool demonstrating how to design more energy efficient buildings.

Not only does it serve as a place that processes bio solids, but Twenty Mile South Farm also houses our compost facility which has received ~50 million pounds of organics, diverted from the landfill, that have been turned into high quality compost and given back to the community.

Dixie Drain Phosphorus Removal Facility - June 16, 2018

The next Livability Ambassador excursion was a longer drive, as the ambassadors made their way to Parma, ID.  Josh Baker, engineer with the City of Boise provided an overview of water quality, the role the city plays in treatment and how Dixie Drain and phosphorus removal are an integral part of keeping the Boise River healthy.

What is the Dixie Drain?

The Dixie Drain Phosphorus Removal Facility is a precedent-setting and innovative project that is greatly enhancing water quality of the Boise and Snake Rivers by removing up to 140 pounds of phosphorus per day from water flowing downstream.

Group taking tour at facility

Josh Baker, an engineer with the City of Boise details some of the water pumps that are the workhorses of Dixie Drain.

Group of adults looking over railing

Ambassadors photograph the outfall, where newly cleaned water prepares to enter back into the Drain and then on to the Boise River. The facility can remove up to 140 pounds of phosphorus per day.

Group of adults standing behind railing

Ambassadors pose for a photo over Dixie Drain, an agricultural drain that brings runoff from surrounding farmland to the Boise River.

The new phosphorus removal facility was built at Dixie Drain (near the confluence of the Boise and Snake rivers) with goals including:

Environmental Return on Investment – For the same cost as upgrading facilities at the existing treatment plants, the Dixie Drain project removes much more phosphorus from the Boise and Snake Rivers.  Essentially, for every pound that is not removed at a treatment facility in Boise, a pound and a half is removed downstream at Dixie Drain.

Phosphorus Otherwise Untouched – Dixie Drain captures ground and surface water flows coming from agriculture operations. These discharges are unregulated and are estimated to contribute up to 40% of the total phosphorus flowing from the Boise and Snake rivers. If it were not for the Dixie Drain project, this significant phosphorus discharge would otherwise remain untouched.

Common Sense Location –  Approximately 80% of the water treated at Boise’s treatment plants is diverted downstream for irrigation. With the Dixie Drain project, the phosphorus is removed at a location where there are no further diversions for irrigation and additional loading of phosphorus.

Added Benefit – In addition to phosphorus being removed from the rivers, sediment levels are also greatly reduced, improving not only river aesthetics, but improving habitat for fish and aquatic life.

Lasting, Innovative, & Vibrant – Lasting environments and vibrant communities will take continued collaboration and innovation. Eight years in the making, Dixie Drain serves as an important milestone and example of what dedication, hard work and partnership can accomplish.

Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center - July 21, 2018

Situated in the heart of the Boise foothills, the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center is a unique facility surrounded by native sagebrush steppe ecosystem and a diverse assortment of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and amphibians. The center provides environmental education opportunities to students of all ages and engages the community in environmental education that connects and ignites interest in the natural resources, science, cultural and ecological history of the Boise Foothills. Annually, the center serves approximately 10,000 children, adults and families. Ambassadors were given an opportunity to experience some of the same environmental education offered through their programs.

Woman leading lecture in classroom

Ambassadors learning about the history and details of the Open Space and Clean Water Levy from our tour guide, Sara Arkle- Foothills/Open Space Supervisor

Group poses in front of large sculpture

Ambassadors and city employees in front of the ‘air’ sculpture Aero Agoseris (2008) by Mark Baltes

Large beehive warning sign

Tour of the center’s grounds including the bee apiary and pollinator garden

Demand and Growth

As Boise grows, the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center is finding more and more interest in environmental education opportunities, and the center is continually working to meet that demand. The increased demand has required a lot of innovation from the team, and changes they have implemented have led to an increased impact by serving more families with existing resources. 

Protecting Open Space and Clean Air

In November of 2015, a resounding majority of Boise voters approved a temporary tax to raise money to preserve open space and improve clean water in Boise. Citizens clearly indicated a strong desire to protect wildlife habitat, provide recreational opportunities, and enhance clean water for the enjoyment of future generations.

Service Opportunities

Boise is an engaged and service-oriented community.  There isa high community demand for volunteering opportunities that have learning elements – like habitat restoration, fire-wise landscaping, and invasive species management. The education programs offered at the center can be a stepping stone for individuals seeking to engage in conservation efforts within the Ridge to Rivers and open space management programs. The center’s team currently juggles the coordination of these volunteers with many other duties enabling them to accomplish organizational goals with a robust volunteer workforce.


The center’s space is limited in the size of the building both for their team and for program participants. The team has been working to improve the outdoor classroom opportunities– including building a nature play area, a firewise garden, and utilizing the park atmosphere to pilot an year-round, outdoor half-day preschool. Ambassadors took part in some of these outdoor programs as a part of their excursion.

Trash Doesn't Just Disappear - A Trip to the Ada County Landfill

A landfill is a place where everyone knows it's there, but you don't know what it is or what they do. Just because our trash goes to the landfill, doesn't mean it disappears; work has to be done with those materials. Reduce, reuse and recycle materials is at the heart of the work the City of Boise undertakes to manage the materials generated in our community. We believe in innovation and continual evaluation to address our materials management issues. On August 21, the ambassadors learned all about materials management within the landfill and all the work that goes into it.

Man giving instructions to group at outdoor facility

Chad Schwend, Ada County Environmental Compliance Coordinator, talking to the ambassadors about the gas-to-energy program at the landfill.

Group of people at a landfill

The Livability Ambassadors on the ground in the midst of a few day’s worth of landfill garbage.

Aerial view of a landfill

A view from atop of just a few days-worth of landfill garbage from Ada County.

What is Materials Management?

The materials management program oversees, trash, recycling, compost, and household hazardous waste services for residents and businesses. Some of the work done includes:

  • Manage trash disposal with direct hauls to the Ada County Landfill and through two transfer stations where trash is consolidated into larger trailers to improve efficiency in hauling to the landfill.
  • Collect recyclable materials and sending those materials to Western Recycling on South Cole Road in Boise. Western sorts the recyclable materials and markets them to regional, national and international buyers.
  • Collect compost from residential customers and delivered to the Twenty Mile South Compost Facility. 
  • Assist with the Household hazardous waste (HHW) collection, which is a cooperative program with Ada County and other cities within the county. Ada County pays for the collection contractor and disposal/recycling costs of the materials collected from households in all of Ada County. Boise owns three collection vehicles and offers the greatest number of collection locations. The HHW program also provides a small business program to assist businesses - with the proper disposal of small amounts of hazardous wastes.

Why Waste Management?

Protection of health and the environment is the foundation for the materials management program. We are given the authority through the Idaho State Constitution to manage and run the Materials Management Program because it protects the environment and public health. The city has implemented numerous programs to ensure protection of public health and safety, as well as environmental protection from improper disposal of trash and hazardous wastes. The citizens of Boise requested the opportunity to recycle materials starting in 1992 and the commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle is a core value for the community. The Solid Waste Strategic Plan provided the foundation for materials management efforts since 2009.

Renewing Our Water - The Boise WaterShed

The Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center opened in May 2008 and was created through a partnership between the City of Boise and Boise WaterShed Exhibits, Inc., a local non-profit organization.  Located at the West Boise Water Renewal Facility, the center is the City’s first LEED-certified building and Idaho’s first water education center.  The Boise WaterShed is designed to promote water stewardship by teaching people of all ages how to protect and conserve our precious resource for future generations. The education programs exist to build awareness and to inspire personal responsibility and behavior change to protect and conserve our natural resources. 

Group of adults standing in a large pipe

Ever wonder what happens once you flush the toilet or the water from your shower? The livability ambassadors are standing inside an example of the pipe that transports all of the water from our houses to our water renewal facilities.

Woman in hardhat holding rock

Livability ambassadors inspected the Class A struvite fertilizer the City of Boise creates from the removal of phosphorus from the solids that come into our water renewal facilities.

Woman in hardhat holding up a display for class

Aimee Hughes, our water education coordinator at Boise WaterShed, shows the ambassadors examples of items that should never be flushed down our toilets and explains how they cause problems at the water renewal facilities.

What Makes this Facility Important?

The City of Boise must be diligent and proactive in educating residents about water resources. As a high-desert city, water will continue to be an increasingly valuable resource, and education is a key component in conservation and protecting water quality. The WaterShed was originally created to bridge the divide between the everyday uses of water and the real impact that use has. Additionally, the WaterShed was designed to bring Water Renewal Facilities into the forefront. Traditionally, Wastewater treatment plants around the country have been hidden away, out of sight, out of mind. As critical infrastructure to our city, and an operation that utilizes so much innovation, the WaterShed was a unique tool to introduce residents to the vital work that takes places every day.

Innovation & Creativity

The Watershed is home to the largest collection of public art in the state of Idaho. By tying together water, art and education, the public art provides a new and exciting lens through which to view our community’s water and attracts a broader group of visitors. Completed in 2016 and acting as the outdoor portion of the WaterShed, the 2-acre outdoor River Campus presents a new dimension to water education with exterior exhibits that show the big picture of the Treasure Valley’s water resources.  Presented to simulate the workings of the Lower Boise Watershed, the interactive, walk-able, park-like setting takes visitors on a journey from Luck Peak Reservoir, through Boise’s urban streets, and the Water Renewal Facility.  From here they watch cleaned water returned to the Boise River and see it flow downstream to the agricultural zone that sustains our food industry.  Ultimately, visitors realize that what we do upstream not only affects downstream users, but also the overall health of the Snake River.

What Lies Ahead

A major challenge and opportunity is how to continue to encourage and draw Boise residents to the WaterShed. We know that visitors come out with a new perspective on water in their community after their visit. One idea that has been discussed is to offer some sort of incentive, such a potential discount on a resident’s utility bill for touring facility

Another ongoing challenge is to continue to dispel the ick factor of visiting a Water Renewal Facility. Admittedly, it will never go away for everyone. Yet the more we can break down the initial reaction and move past the reluctance, we can begin to have a deeper more meaningful conversation with residents about all the vital work that takes place at these innovative facilities.

Heat Beneath Our Feet - Geothermal & Boise's First LIV District

Geothermal has been a natural resource utilized by the City of Boise since the 19th century! It is unique to our area and creates sustainable and renewable energy for downtown, most notably for Boise's first LIV District.

What is Geothermal?

The geothermal water is a natural resource that generates heat for buildings and homes in the downtown area of Boise.  Using the 20 miles of pipeline to pump the water, the city is also able to use it as a way to heat some sidewalks for snowmelt.  In order to keep the geothermal water an active energy source, the city takes the water from the Boise foothills and distributes it through an intricate system throughout downtown Boise. The water is then re-injected back into a supply aquifer near Julia Davis Park to create a self-sufficient system, heating homes and businesses all throughout downtown, without using any fossil fuels to produce it.

Two people looking at pipes

Ambassadors learning about one of the Geothermal injection sites in the foothills

The Livability Ambassadors near the Geothermal site.

Haley Falconer, Environmental Sr. Manager for the City of Boise, giving the ambassadors a tour of the LIV District

What is a LIV District?

A LIV District is a geographical area of focused investment that builds on the existing neighborhood fabric, addresses sustainability and takes a balanced approach to planning. The Central Addition is currently the only LIV district in the city and is home to several businesses including Boise Brewing, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

What makes a LIV District Sustainability Friendly?

The LIV District is not only heated using Geothermal water, but it has taken on other sustainable measures to ensure the best use of our natural resources; this includes Streetscape and Stormwater. The LIV District uses innovative water management practices, including permeable pavers, bio-infiltration swales and landscape located between roadways and sidewalks to maximize buildable areas of private property and reduce pollutant loadings to the Boise River.