March 17, 2010

State Water Commission approves funding to bring Missouri River water to McKenzie County

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Gov. John Hoeven announced that the North Dakota State Water Commission has approved two projects, including one in McKenzie County, that will address the increased demand for water by companies exploring and extracting oil in southwest North Dakota.
The projects are the result of a meeting the Governor organized in December 2009 with community officials, rural water system operators and oil industry leaders. The meeting was held to discuss options for expanding municipal water systems, creating additional economic opportunities for communities, while meeting industry’s increased water demands.
One of the projects approved by the State Water Commission includes funding for a regional water service for the McKenzie County Water Resource District. The first part of the project will bring up to four million gallons per day of water from Williston to McKenzie County to supply water depots that will be used for bulk water sales to the oil industry, generating revenues for the continued development of the regional water system. The Commission approved up to $3.5 million in funding for the $7 million project.
“This funding will allow us to take the first step towards creating a long-term water source for McKenzie County,” says Jaret Wirtz, McKenzie County Water Resource District  manager. “This project will allow us to provide water for the oil industry as well as rural members of the county. And if the Watford City vote passes, it will eventually bring water to Watford City.”
North Dakota’s growing energy industry is creating an increased need for water to bring oil wells into production. Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River provide an abundant supply of water near much of the energy activity and are considered the most reliable water source in terms of both quantity and quality required for oil field development in western North Dakota.
“The state’s increased oil activity has resulted in infrastructure challenges such as the need for an abundant, good quality water supply,” said Hoeven. “We have worked closely with water system managers and oil industry officials to identify options to enhance water development in western North Dakota. These projects will address a need in the state’s oil industry and help communities grow their water systems for future generations of municipal and industrial users.”
“This is Phase One of a three phase project,” adds Wirtz. “The project will allow Missouri River water to be piped from the river to a six truck bulk filling station.”
Getting this project complete is a big deal to McKenzie County, because while funding has not yet been acquired, it will allow for other projects to be completed once the funding is available.
An additional project will bring Missouri River water to rural Alexander, and if voted for by the Watford City voters in June, it will eventually bring the water all the way to Watford City.
“The Water Commission’s actions to enhance water resources from Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River for community and oil field use is big news for the industry and our state,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. “This all really occurred as a result of the December meeting called by the Governor and reflects the state’s commitment to meeting the needs of the oil industry and to helping build water infrastructure for western communities. It’s a win-win.”
In recent years, the State Water Commission and the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund managed by the state Health Department have provided direct financial assistance for water system expansions in Williston, Parshall, Ray, Tioga and Stanley. As a result, these communities are now able to meet their domestic needs and provide water to the oil industry.
“Right now we are working to secure funding for our top priority project, which will bring Missouri River water to rural Alexander,” states Wirtz. “However, this funding is a big boost to the project because the Alexander line will tie in to the one million gallon storage reservoir that will be built during Phase One.”
According to Hoeven, the state is continuing to work to address similar infrastructure challenges in other parts of the state, including locations along the north side of Lake Sakakawea. Additional recommendations identified during December’s meeting will be pursued, and the state will continue to work with communities and the oil industry to address increased water demands and the expansion of rural water systems.
Hoeven chairs the nine-member State Water Commission that oversees the effective management of North Dakota’s water resources.