Darin Oswald, Associated Press
Scott and Angie West decided to close their cafe outside Idaho City, Idaho, to concentrate on bottling fresh spring water.

BOISE COUNTY, Idaho (AP) — As far as they know, the water that Scott and Angie West plan to bottle at the Rocks Lodge will be the only spring water commercially produced in Idaho.

And it's a pretty safe bet that it will be the only spring water bottled in Idaho — or anywhere else — by a full-time cop.

The Wests are the owners of the Rocks Lodge, the little roadside motel and restaurant on Idaho 21 between Boise and Idaho City.

Scott West also is a Boise County deputy sheriff.

"It's four days on and four off, so I can take care of the bottling operation on the days that I'm not working as a cop," he said.

The lodge inspired the brand on the bottles — Rocks Natural Idaho Spring Water. They hope to have it on the market by June.

To motorists, the Rocks Lodge is something of a roadside institution. Dick and Katherine Thomas built it in 1969. You could spend the night in one of the rooms, get a hot meal and fill your water jugs with the spring water that still flows from a pipe out front.

Legend has it that the spring was discovered by two miners in 1903.

"The story is that one of them accidentally tapped into the aquifer on the side of the hill and the force of the water blew him across the canyon," Scott West said.

A retired Marine, West, 50, bought the lodge from the Thomases 16 years ago. He was an active-duty Marine then, stationed at Gowen Field.

"I was looking at options for when I got out and saw an ad for a business on Highway 21," he said. "I decided to check it out and fell in love with it the minute I walked in the door."

The Wests — Angie was a Marine as well — leased the business until they retired. They've been running it themselves for six years.

In March, weary of the long hours it takes to run a restaurant, they closed it to focus on bottling the spring water. The lodge will stay open.

"It was a bittersweet thing," Scott said. "We had a lot of great customers. But we were totally fried by the long hours, and we don't have time to run a bottling plant, a restaurant and take care of three kids."

The restaurant is being converted to the bottling operation and storage space. It's a change that was a long time coming.

"We thought about it for years," Angie said. "People stop all the time and fill their water jugs with the overflow from the spring, and we use the water in our house. When we realized bottled water was the fastest-growing beverage industry and that as far as we knew no one else was bottling Idaho water, we decided to go ahead."

Trinity Springs, a Boise company that bottled water from Elmore County, has been temporarily closed by a legal dispute. Its absence left a large gap on the shelves at the Boise Co-op, which sold almost $50,000 worth of the popular Trinity Springs water annually.

"We called the Co-op and asked if they'd be interested in our water, and they said absolutely," Scott West said. "That energized us."

The couple hired Boise's Analytical Laboratories Inc. to test their water. Brian McGovern, a microbiologist there, said he "can't comment on it aesthetically because that's not our role. But I can say that its final tests met the standards for public health and safety."

Dodds Hayden had no trouble commenting aesthetically. Hayden is president of Hayden Beverage Co., which will distribute the water.

"There's a great market for good quality local products here, and this is a good quality product," he said. "When a Boise area company can put something like this out, the market just loves it. We know that from representing Ste. Chapelle wine for 25 years. The market deserves a really good local water, the Wests have a good story to tell (the ill-fated miner), and their water tastes great."

Distribution initially will be in the Treasure Valley, with the rest of southern Idaho potentially to follow.

The water will be mid-market priced and sold in liter and half-liter bottles featuring a drawing of the miner.

"It will be mostly plastic, but we want to have a glass bottle for the upscale market," Scott said.

The Wests are well aware of the effect of drinking-water bottles on landfills.

"We looked into biodegradable bottles, but the material affects the taste," Scott said.

"Our No. 1 priority is to encourage people to recycle until a better alternative is available," his wife added. "We want to keep it local and as green as possible. It won't travel far, and the Hayden trucks can just stop here on their way to Idaho City."

They hope to have up to 10 employees and provide good wages and benefits in a county where jobs are scarce. They also intend to donate water for local schools to sell at fundraising events.

"We want to be good neighbors," Scott said. "We're starting out with a bare-bones operation, only 20 bottles a minute, but I have an abiding belief that this water will sell. I think our biggest problem will be keeping up with the demand."