How spring water rejuvenated an old mining town in Idaho

How spring water rejuvenated an old mining town in Idaho

Mackay, Idaho — Hidden in the White Knob Mountains of Idaho, you’ll find what’s left of the copper and silver mines that first put the small town of Mackay on the map.

“There were over 1,200 people living on this mountain,” said Mayor Wayne Olsen.

Now, he said, it’s “just squirrels.”

Olsen brought CBS News to the mountains to showcase the town’s past and what he hopes will be its future in the valley below. There, sustainably harvested water from a local spring is bottled and recycled in American-sourced aluminum. It’s then shipped across the country by people like the sixth generation “Mackayan” Kelvin Krosch.

“Our water is second to none – just the natural flavor and purification,” Krosch said.

Locally, it is celebrated for helping to bring new life to a city that, like its mines, nearly closed.

“The city was about to close a school because there was nothing here and there weren’t enough students in the school,” said Ryan Donahue, co-founder of Proud Source Water.

Donahue, a Mackay native, asked his friend CJ Pennington for help.

“It wasn’t from a place of ‘Hey, I have a great business idea and I’m going to make all this money. Come join me.’ It was, ‘I need to create 10 jobs!'” Pennington said.

In 2016, the city offered Proud Source a license to access water and a five-year incentive: create five full-time jobs using no more than 5% of the spring water, and the city would give them the land deed for their factory. of bottling.

They have created 32 jobs since then. The company projects sales of US$ 50 million this year.

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“I think we’re the biggest employer in Mackay,” Donahue said.

There was also a ripple effect. The graduating class of the last year was more than double the class of just three years before.

“We have some new families,” Olsen said. “We have a lot of new construction going on. I love hearing hammers and saws because it means there’s progress.”

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