Four independent heating districts operate geothermal systems within Boise that serve more than five million square feet of residential, business, and government space. Energy is produced locally and sustainably. Every gallon pumped out is injected back into the system.
- The Boise Public Works Department operates and collects fees for the system that serves the downtown core area and the Boise State University campus. It is the largest direct-use geothermal heating district in the United States.
- The State of Idaho operates the system that heats the Idaho State Capitol and several other buildings within the Capitol Mall area.
- The Veterans Administration (VA) provides service to the VA campus.
- Boise Warm Springs Water District provides service to the residential properties in the vicinity of Warm Springs Avenue. (For information, contact the Boise Warm Springs Water District at 342-3162.)
Long before Boise resedients enjoyed the recreational and therapeutic pleasures of Boise Valley's natural spring waters, the Bannock, Paiute and Shoshone Tribes enjoyed the areas's geothernal hot waters for a range of medicinal purposes. The constructon of Fort Boise over the summer of 1863 lead to the development of Boise City with Native inhabitants facing displacement and eventual forced removal to Fort Hall, Idaho in 1869. Entreprenueurs were quick to capitalize with Boise Hot Springs established by J.L. Stevens in 1871 and the Natatorium, a luxury "pleasure palace" opened in 1892.
In the heat of Boise’s “cold water war,” Boise Water Works gained an edge on its competition, the Artesian Water and Land Improvement Company, by drilling for hot water in 1890 at the base of the foothills near the old penitentiary. Soon after the hot water discovery, the two companies merged to form the Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company. The company built the 15,000 square foot Boise Natatorium hot spa in 1892. That same year, the homes of C.W. and H.B. Eastman were the first on Warm Springs Road to utilize geothermal heat. There was a flat rate of $2 a month for small homes and $3 for larger homes, while the rest of the city was paying $8 for coal heat. By 1958, the system served 244 customers in Boise.
In the early 1980’s, Boise City and the Veteran’s Administration constructed geothermal systems, as did the state of Idaho in the 1990’s. The city system, serving 86 buildings by 2015, is the largest direct-use geothermal heating system in the United States.
In 2008, through the Percent-For-Art program, Boise City Department of Arts & History partnered with Public Works to host a public art competition to celebrate and raise public awareness of buildings that use geothermal heat. The commissioned Idaho artist Ward Hooper to create the historically-inspired shield that signifies protection of natural resources and the environment. Iconic images of the Capitol Building and the Boise Depot are prominently featured. You will find the plaque posted on buildings that are on the Boise City Geothermal Heating System.