August 12, 2009

City, rural water district look at purchasing water from Williston

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Water is a basic necessity of life, something that every individual is entitled to. However, quality and availability of water varies from one area to the next, something that many residents of McKenzie County are all too familiar with. Water quality is something the Watford City city council would like to take care of so its residents don’t have to think about it.
“The water treatment plant in Watford City is 25 years old and while it has been maintained, it is time to look at redoing it,” says Lowell Cutshaw, Watford City city administrator/engineer. “Because of the poor quality and availability of water in McKenzie County, the city and rural water district have been looking into a couple of different options.”
According to Cutshaw, Watford City has checked into redoing the water treatment plant with a reverse osmosis system, something that will cost $7.4 million dollars plus regular maintenance and only last 25 years.
“The quality of water throughout McKenzie County is relatively poor because of what it flows through underground,” adds Cutshaw. “The only option to make our ground water more palatable is reverse osmosis and that only removes iron and manganese.”
While Watford City’s water does have high levels of both iron and manganese, it also contains high levels of calcium, phosphates, dissolved solids, sodium and bicarbonate. The water also has a high alkalinity and overall hardness that would not be treated with reverse osmosis.
“Because of the high cost of reverse osmosis, we have decided to take a look at getting water from Williston,” states Cutshaw. “Our main goal is to bring something more palatable and healthy to area residents and Williston’s water could do that for us.”
The Williston water treatment plant treats water from the Missouri River for the residents of Williston, as well as those connected to a pipeline that runs north of the city.
“Williston’s water is much better than what we have in McKenzie County and a pipeline has a lifespan of 80 years compared to the 25 year lifespan of a treatment plant, the cost of upkeep would also be much less,” adds Jaret Wirtz, McKenzie County Water Resource District manager. “We are looking into a regional water supply where water would flow through a pipeline from Williston to parts of McKenzie County’s rural water system and all of Watford City.”
According to Wirtz, even though Watford City would be purchasing its water from Williston, the city would still have a say in things as part of the Upper Missouri Water Supply Consortium.
“The consortium would include rural Williams County, Williston, Watford City and McKenzie County,” comments Wirtz. “The board would consist of members from each area, so each community involved would still have an opinion.”
Of course with any large project there are costs and some of that cost is always passed on to the customer.
“There will be costs to Watford City no matter what we decide to do,” says Cutshaw. “According to the feasibility study we had done, the worst case scenario is a 10 percent increase to residents if we started getting water from Williston. But when you compare their water to what we currently have and take into account that Watford City needs to do something either way, an increase of 10 percent doesn’t seem like that much.”
Advantages of getting water from Williston include better water, no upkeep to the treatment plant and a more long term source of water.
“Watford City’s water has a total hardness of 204 compares to only 136 in Williston and a total alkalinity of 473 compared to 53 in Williston,” states Cutshaw. “By getting water from Williston we would be increasing the quality by more than we could ever imagine with our water.”
Other elements making Watford City’s water less palatable and healthy include sodium at a level of 367 compared to Williston’s level of 58 and total dissolved solids in Watford City at 1,210 compared to only 329 in Williston.
“Right now we are in the preliminary stages of this project,” adds Wirtz. “If the city decides to go this route, we are looking at five years before construction would begin on the pipeline.”
If the decision is made to bring water from Williston, a pipeline will be constructed to bring the water from the Williston water treatment plant under the Missouri River and into McKenzie County, a construction project that is estimated to take about one year and residents of Watford City would not see any changes to the way they receive their water.
“Right now we are in the process of getting grant applications and putting together a board,” adds Cutshaw. “There are a lot of preliminary things that need to be taken care of before any final decisions are made. And if a rate increase is needed, it would not happen until after the water is flowing.”