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Posted 3/17/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Last week’s announcement by the North Dakota State Water Commission to fund a regional water service for the McKenzie County Rural Water Resource District was a big step forward in bringing high quality Missouri River water to residents of McKenzie County, as well asproviding much needed water to a rapidly growing oil industry.
While most of us accept what comes out of our taps as being good water, it most of the time is not. For the most part, North Dakota doesn’t have the best quality aquifers when it comes to providing domestic or municipal water supplies. While the water may meet all of the State Health Department standards, we also have to live with the fact that in many cases it is pushing the upper limits of acceptability.
Such is the case with most water wells in McKenzie County. The water is wet, but it’s not the best. Most of our current water supplies are high in dissolved solids, salts and other minerals.
And with the increased demand for fresh water from the oil industry to put new oil wells into production in McKenzie County, the demand for more and better fresh water has become a pressing need in western North Dakota.
The best long-term answer to solve the need for more water of high quality to meet consumer and industrial demand is to tap into the Missouri River. 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.
And the State Water Commission’s approval to fund up to $3.5 million of the County Water Resource District’s $7 million project does just that. The McKenzie County Water Resource District is planning to purchase water from the City of Williston and build a new pipeline into McKenzie County that will bring up to four million gallons per day of water to supply water depots that will be used for bulk water sales to the oil industry. With the sale of water to oil companies, the water district will be able to then generate revenue that will ultimately allow for the continued development of the regional water system and bring treated Missouri River water into areas of the county that desperately need better water.
The future growth of western North Dakota and the oil industry that is driving the state’s economy depend upon having a good supply of high quality water. Being able to have a continuous supply of high quality water, such as the Missouri River affords, will ensure that the residents of McKenzie County will finally have access to good water as well as meet the demands of the energy industry.