Big Payette Lake Water Quality Council

In Memory of Rich Holm

We are deeply saddened by the recent death of Rich Holm, a long-time board member, friend, and our Government Affairs officer. Rich was a serious and dedicated champion of Payette Lake. His hard work and wise counsel have been a foundation of our efforts to protect and sustain our lake. Contributions in memoriam will be gratefully accepted and acknowledged by the Big Payette Lake Water Quality Council, PO Box 3108, McCall, Idaho, 83638.

About Payette Lake.

Big Payette Lake appeared in the late Pleistocene epoch when glaciers carved its basin from the earth, leaving behind the ridge, or moraine, that forms the present south shore where the City of McCall is perched.

The Lake contains about 157 billion gallons of water, covers an area of 7.6 square miles, or 4,800 acres. It spans over 6 miles north to south, with a shoreline of over 22 miles. Depths exceed 300 feet in the northeast and southwest basins. It takes almost two years for the volume of water in the Lake to flow through the outlet on its way to the Pacific Ocean. The entire watershed covers about 144 square miles, much of which is managed by the US Forest Service and Idaho Department of Lands.

Importantly, we drink the water – Big Payette Lake is the sole source of drinking water for the City of McCall and hundreds of lake-side residences.

Payette Lake Framework – Act, Study, Management Plan

The current Council relies on a large body of work and data originating in the 1990’s with the vision of Peter Johnson and the first Council and its Technical Advisory Committee.  The Big Payette Lake Management Plan, and most of the relevant enabling and work product documents can be found under the Resourcesmenu at the top of this page. These documents are essential to understanding what makes Payette Lake unique, vulnerable, and ultimately – with much continued study and effort – sustainable.

The Council is Now a Tax-Exempt Charitable Organization

The Council was recently granted non-profit, tax-exempt status under IRS rule 501.c.3. This is exciting news, as it will allow us to pursue more grant opportunities, and generally provide for tax-deductible status to donations which are made to the Council. We intend to leverage our new status to expand our work for education and lake protection in 2020, through enlarging our board of directors, revisiting the 1997 Lake Management Plan, and advocating for locally-driven solutions to water quality challenges.

Studies to Enable Data-Driven Solutions

Good management decisions and effective policies and laws require a foundation of good data. During the winter of 2019-2020, we learned that the University of Idaho was planning to study near-shore water quality and erosion impacts from waves and wakes in Payette Lake. The Council has assisted the University of Idaho Foundation with fundraising for this study. The research study is led by Dr Frank Wilhelm, a respected limnologist and professor at the university.Please check this summary (PDF) of the proposed study for more information.

To learn more about the study, please see the University of Idaho’s short video on YouTube,A Deeper Understanding – Idaho’s Lakes at

Idaho Public Television has also produced an Outdoor Idaho episode, “Health of Our Lakes” that provides excellent background on Dr Wilhelm and related water quality studies in Idaho. The full episode can be viewed at


To protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of Big Payette Lake and its watershed through education, scientific study, and conservation activities.


The Big Payette Lake Water Quality Council is an incorporated non-profit organization.

The Council is solutions-based and focused on advocating for sensible environmental standards backed by science and monitoring, community engagement, and a collaborative process of working together to protect Payette Lake.


Please visit our Projects page to learn about lake studies, planning, land use, and how you can help.


Join others in supporting our advocacy, education, and collaboration to keep Payette Lake an Idaho gem now and for the future.​

We are a charitable 501(c)3 organization, so your donations may be tax deductible. Contributions toward our work will be gladly accepted and can be sent to:

PO BOX 3108
MCCALL, ID 83638-6108

And, of course, please contact us with any questions or suggestions, at [email protected]

Thank You!

Get Involved

We are currently seeking new members to join our Board of Directors.

We welcome candidates with diverse backgrounds and of all ages (18 and older) who share a passion for protecting our lake for future generations.