Posted 12/19/12 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
The Western Area Water Supply Project (WAWSP) is an impressive engineering feat and the first of its kind, according to North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.
In a remarkable period of time, the WAWSP is preparing to serve the cities of Crosby, Wildrose, Ross, Columbus, Fortuna, Ambrose, Ray, Tioga, and Stanley. And as of Friday, Dec. 14, it began serving the residents of Watford City and McKenzie County.
“Water is the lifeblood of thriving economies, and if North Dakota is going to continue to have the number one economy in America, we must continue to invest in essential infrastructure like water,” states Wrigley. Which is why he and State Legislator George Keiser believe that the WAWSP is a win for the western North Dakota communities it will service as well as the entire state.
“I believe that every North Dakota citizen is my constituent, so if it is good for western North Dakota, it is good for all of North Dakota,” states Keiser as to why he championed the project through the 2011 State Legislature.
“Even a prominent economy like western North Dakota can’t come to full life without critical infrastructure investments,” states Wrigley. “This is historic for all four corners of North Dakota.”
Keiser and Wrigley appeared in Watford City, along with Watford City and McKenzie County leaders, on Dec. 14, to help celebrate the completion of Watford City’s leg of the WAWSP.
Together, Wrigley, Keiser, Denton Zubke, who is the chairman of the Western Area Water Supply Authority, and area leaders celebrated the turning over of water from its old supply to its new supply, the Missouri River. The ceremony took place at the Watford City reservoir, where area leaders gave recognition to those who made the WAWSP possible.
On that list was the AE2S engineering firm credited with helping the project move quickly and efficiently. So efficiently, in fact, that from the time the bill was accepted in May of 2011 to now, miles of pipeline have been put in the ground to Watford City, around Williston to Ray and to Crosby, and Phase 1 is nearly complete, which includes rural water distribution to Alexander and upgrades to the Williston Water Treatment Plant.
Thank yous were also extended to Lt. Gov. Wrigley, State Representative George Keiser, the Western Area Water Supply Authority Board, the McKenzie County Commissioners, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, those who have worked tirelessly digging in the dirt to install pipe along Highway 85 so Watford City could have water from the Missouri River, and finally to the residents of Watford City for having the forethought to vote yes to the project.
“Quality drinking water for Watford City has been a top concern for the city council for many years,” states Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford.
According to Sanford, in his first year with the city council, options were explored to improve the city’s water quality by building a reverse osmosis facility. But that was deemed too expensive for city consumers at that time, though it was still greatly needed.
In 2009, a Garrison Conservancy District study showed it would be cheaper in the long run to pipe treated water from an existing treatment plant on the Missouri River.
That, in conjunction with the increasing need for frac water, brought about the right set of economic circumstances and the Western Area Water Supply Project was born.
The Western Area Water Supply Authority was approved in the 2010-2011 North Dakota State Legislative Session, which subsequently started the WAWSP.
“If we had gone forward with the reverse osmosis plant when we first considered the idea, we would now be very concerned about our aquifier levels due to the fracking usage,” states Sanford. “Now, finally this month, we will receive treated drinking water from the Missouri River.”
Sanford states that the improved water quality will be shown through less white residue on home fixtures and dishes, healthier vegetation, and the simple ability to drink water from the tap.
“Plus we will be able to wash our cars outside and not see huge white spots when it dries,” states Sanford.
Residents need to be aware that there will be a transitional period that will occur after the initial switch-over, which will officially take place on Monday, Dec. 17.
“There will be many different locations where the city will be flushing out the current water that is in the pipelines and will be replacing it with the new water during a time frame of one to two days,” states Justin Smith, superintendent of Public Works for Watford City. “The piping in homes may have built up some scale over the years from the hardness of the groundwater the city has been using. The new water may cause some of that scale to break loose.”
For that reason, Smith advises Watford City residents to run every faucet in their homes for five minutes and periodically remove the faucet screen covers to clear them of debris.
According to Smith, the new water will be softer, so residents may have to adjust their water softener settings, as well as make modifications to home dialysis machines, aquariums and the amount of detergent used in washing machines and dishwashers.
Residents may also notice an odor or chlorinous taste, but Smith states that it should only last a couple of days. Anyone who notices a taste or odor that lasts longer than a few days is encouraged to call the Watford City City Hall.
By 2025, the WAWSP will transport treated water from the Missouri River to residents in McKenzie, Williams, Divide, Burke and Mountrail counties. It will run from the Missouri River to the Canadian border and is anticipated to serve more than 80,000 people due to the massive anticipated population growth in northwestern North Dakota.