Posted 8/29/18 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
With all of the growth in population that Watford City has had in the past six or so years, it is virtually impossible to get a true and accurate number of just what the city’s population is. Everyone knows that the 2010 Census number of 1,744 is not right. But then most people believe that the 2017 Census Bureau’s estimate of 6,523 is too low.
With the 2020 Census still a long way off, Watford City leaders have been scratching their heads as to how to come up with a realistic number. And they have used some creative methods, such as measuring the amount of sewage that is being treated, to arrive at how many people are living here. Believe it or not, that sewage use when compared to other cities across the state, does provide a fairly good estimate.
And based on sewage use, one could guess that Watford City’s population is somewhere around 8,000.
But there is another statistic, the number of students enrolled in the school system, that can be used to estimate a community’s population. And if one only looks at the enrollment trend in Watford City’s schools, it becomes pretty obvious that the city’s population continues to grow.
When school opened in Watford City, a record 1,836 students showed up for classes. That is a nearly 300 student increase from last year and definitely puts the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1’s enrollment above several Class A schools, notably Devils Lake and Turtle Mountain (Belcourt) as well as pushing those of Jamestown, Valley City and Wapheton.
The growth in student numbers is presenting some difficult challenges, such as where to put all of these students, to our school system. With all three of Watford City’s school buildings rapidly running out of room, the school board will have to decide very quickly whether or not to proceed with asking voters to approve a bond issue to construct a second elementary school.
According to enrollment projections, Watford City’s schools are expected to see continued growth, although probably not at the 20 percent increase that they saw this year, in the coming years.
The growth in the number of children attending school in Watford City is one of the most positive indicators that we have of what is happening in the way of our population trends. As the oil and gas industry continues to invest billions of dollars into McKenzie County in the way of new wells and gas plants, Watford City’s population will continue to grow. And that means, there will be more students attending class in Watford City in the future.