The Boise WaterShed project is a unique civic/government partnership conceived as a public education project in 1992 by Boise Public Works Department staff. There was discussion to include one room of educational exhibits in the West Boise Administration building located at the West Boise Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Administration building, which housed the Water Quality Lab and staff, was in need of major renovations. Architects determined that it was more cost-effective to build a new building rather than renovate and repair the existing structure. With the idea of a new building, came the initiative to make the building’s focus on public education, with office space as a secondary purpose. The Boise WaterShed opened its doors to the public in May 2008.
In 1999, the project gained momentum as Public Works Commissioner Donna-Marie Hayes was appointed to lead a community drive to fund the educational exhibits. In 2005, the non-profit Boise WaterShed Exhibits, Inc. (BWE) was incorporated. The City and BWE agreement was signed, and a volunteer BWE Board of Directors was established to raise $1 million for the exhibits. In 2007, BWE reached their goal of $1 million thanks to community leaders, organizations, and corporations who recognize the importance of the critical message the Boise Watershed delivers. Boise WaterShed Exhibits, Inc. is dedicated to promoting water stewardship well into the future.
The partnership approach requires funding from both sectors: Boise City funded the construction of the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center grounds, art, programs, personnel and exhibit maintenance. Boise WaterShed Exhibits, Inc. through community support funded the exhibits, signage, art and programs, and provides volunteer opportunities related to the facility.
Funding for the $2 million green building construction was paid for by the Boise City Sewer Enterprise Fund. The sewer enterprise fund is funded by user fees from residents and businesses connected to the sewer system. There were no tax dollars used for the Boise WaterShed.