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City water change to be decided at the poll

Posted 5/19/10 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Watford City city officials are hopeful that the low turnout at the City’s Forum on Drinking Water indicates that all questions have been answered in regard to supplying residents with water from the Missouri River.
“We only had a few people at the forum and we have had very few concerns about the project,” says Lowell Cutshaw, Watford City city engineer/administrator. “Hopefully, that means that most of the residents are supportive of this change. But we won’t know until after the vote in June.”
The time has come for the city of Watford City to make some updates to its current water treatment plant,with receiving water from the Missouri River being the city’s most favorable option.
“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 Cutshaw. “Because of the poor quality and availability of water in McKenzie County, the city and the McKenzie County Rural Water Resources District have been looking into a couple of different options.”
One of the options involved drilling four wells into the Fox Hills Aquifer and building a reverse osmosis system. But, according to Cutshaw, this option is no longer viable because the North Dakota State Water Commission has not been approving any drilling into the Fox Hills Aquifer.
“Since we most likely can’t drill any wells into the Fox Hills Aquifer, our option would be to build a reverse osmosis plant and update the current treatment plant,” states Cutshaw. “So we feel the option of bringing water from the Missouri River is our best option.”
The quality of water throughout McKenzie County is relatively poor because of what it flows through underground. Although reverse osmosis is an option to make the water more palatable, it only rids the water of 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.
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.
If the decision is made to bring water from the Missouri River, 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. If residents of Watford City vote yes to receive water from the Missouri River, it will take around five years before the water begins flowing into area households.
Of course, with any large project there are costs, and some of that cost is always passed on to the customer. But thanks to grant funding, the city expects that the cost to customers would be relatively low.
“We are looking at having 75 percent of the project funded through grants,” adds Cutshaw. “With this estimate, we are looking at increasing a resident’s monthly water bill by only about four dollars per month.”
Right now, the project is in the preliminary stages with hopes that the pipeline will begin construction later this fall, even if Watford City residents vote against receiving the water.
The project will bring water from the Missouri River to six bulk water depots and rural areas in McKenzie County.
“If the action of bringing this water to Watford City is voted down, the pipeline project will be downsized reducing our chances of ever going this route again,” comments Cutshaw. “I think this is a great opportunity for Watford City and I hope the vote passes.”
Residents will vote on the issue during the June 8 election.