PARMA, Idaho — Clean water advocate Christopher Swain spent the last few weeks becoming the first person to swim the entirety of the Boise River. Thursday, he ceremoniously accomplished that feat.
Swain has swum more than 3,000 miles in more than 2 dozen polluted waterways, and now, he's accomplished swimming the entirety of the Boise River. And as he said he had predicted, water quality worsened as he got closer to the finish line. That's where 6 On Your Side's Madeline White caught up with him.
"It was really tiring to be in there six hours a day," said Swain.
On this journey, it's safe to say water quality advocate Christopher Swain got a fish eye's view of the Boise River. He also stopped to talk to Idahoans along the way.
"Every single person we ran into wants the Boise River to be clean."
From its source in the Sawtooths, swimming west across the state, all the way to the Oregon border, he said, "This river starts as a beautiful a wilderness mineral water, you can see several yards if you put your head under the surface. When you start to get down to Boise, it's just what you'd expect from any river running through a city!"
He risked his health and safety swimming through the Treasure Valley and agricultural farmland-- updating his followers on the Boise River: Source to Snake app.
"As the river approaches the snake, I was thinking it would lake up a little bit, and that I'd be able to take some strokes, but when I look under water with my goggles, I can't see anything cause the water's so murky and full of sediment," said Swain, in a video on the free mobile app.
According to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), The source of our drinking water is partly surface water, which comes from rivers like the Boise. Trash and contamination from farms and animals contribute to its pollution. But he says you can't simply blame a certain industry or group.
"We have responsibility to those folks," said Swain.
He said solutions are possible, it's just a matter of advocating for it: something he says he's confident Idahoans are capable of.
"It's easy to do more sewage treatment than we now do. It's not a difficult thing to create tax incentives and financial support for farmers to connect them to grants that can help them run their irrigation water across activated wetlands, or whatever we need to do."
On the free Boise River: Source to Snakeapp, you can learn more about Swain's journey and of things you can do to help improve water quality in the Boise River. Swain hopes people will continue to use the hashtag #boiseriverhopes
The DEQ posts real-time water quality data for all public water systems on the PWS Switchboard.