This is the week most irrigation canals dry up as the spigot is turned off for the year. Boise is a semi-arid climate, and without irrigation, we wouldn't have much agriculture. Certainly, it would be expensive to water our yards with drinking-quality water. The water in the canal system comes from Boise River storage upstream. Originally, it was designed to water crops in our valley, but crops have been largely replaced by subdivisions over the past 15 years. Those subdivisions benefit from the agricultural water rights, and most of us pay a flat fee to use what feels like as much as we want through pressurized systems. The City of Boise encourages us to tap into the canal systems, so we don't "waste" treated drinking water.
But another reason to use the water has to do with water politics. If we, as in all the people tapping into the irrigation system, don't "use" all the allocation under the water right, then the warning is that "someone else downstream" may be able to take the water right away. So the City of Boise encourages us to use it up. This reasoning can seem odd to people in other parts of the country who don't have access to agricultural water rights/irrigation. They often don't believe me that government would encourage potentially wasteful use of a resource that's often scarce. Read more blog posts on the "water" topic from around the world by clicking here.