February 24, 2010

Voters to be asked to change city’s water suppy source

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 residents of Watford City are familiar with. But, an upcoming vote could start the process to change that for good.
Watford City residents will be asked to vote, in the upcoming June election, on the issue of receiving water from the Missouri River.
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, and the McKenzie County Water Resource District has begun the process to build a pipeline that would bring Missouri River water to its rural system in Alexander and possibly to Watford City.
“Watford City has a window of opportunity to receive a better quality of water from a long-term renewable resource,” says Jaret Wirtz, McKenzie County Water Resource District manager. “McKenzie County will be running the pipeline as far as Alexander, so if Watford City residents vote for this option, the pipeline will be extended.”
The Watford City City Council is supportive of bringing Missouri River water to Watford City because the city’s water treatment plant is in need of replacement and this poses a long-term solution.
“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. “I don’t believe there are any disadvantages of using water obtained through a pipeline from the Missouri River.  It should be as reliable a source as the city’s current water source, and a pipeline has an 80-year lifespan versus the other option that will only last 25 years.”
According to Cutshaw, 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 groundwater more palatable is reverse osmosis and that only removes iron and manganese.”
“Watford City has checked into redoing the water treatment plant with a reverse osmosis system,” adds Cutshaw. “This option would cost $7.4 million dollars plus regular maintenance and only last 25 years.”
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 the Missouri River,” states Cutshaw. “Our main goal is to bring something more palatable and healthy to area residents and this could do that for us.”
According to Cutshaw, the water produced by Williston’s water treatment plant contains about 25 percent of the sodium content, 25 percent of the bicarbonate content, and 25 percent of the sulfate content of Watford City’s groundwater source.
“The city’s groundwater meets all current federal and state requirements for water quality and purity, but if we change the source, we can reduce some of the undesirable constituents of the water,” comments Cutshaw. “This should reduce hardness and some of the staining and deposits that you see on your water fixtures such as faucets.”
Of course, with any large project there are costs, and some of that cost is always passed on to the customer.
“We are working on a rate analysis to show residents what their current cost for water is and what it will be if they vote to approve receiving water from the pipeline constructed by the McKenzie County Water Resource District,” adds Cutshaw. “We hope to have the study completed sometime this coming March so we can hold some public meetings on the topic in April.”
It could take as long as five years for Watford City residents to get the new water source, but the decision needs to be made now before plans for the pipeline are finalized.
“The McKenzie County Water Resource District is going to build the transmission line regardless of Watford City’s decision. But we need to know if they plan to receive water so we know how big of a pipe to use,” states Wirtz. “If the residents of Watford City vote this down, then the pipeline will stop at Alexander and it will be a missed opportunity for Watford City.”