Water Project Nearing Milestone - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Water Project Nearing Milestone

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A water project designed to deliver quality drinking water to small towns and rural areas of western North Dakota is nearly ready to make its first water deliveries.

The Western Area Water Supply Project - or WAWS - is moving forward at breakneck speed - while organizers prepare to ask state legislators for more funding to expand their reach.

(Jaert Wirtz, WAWS Executive Director) "Probably the fastest pace of its kind."

That's how the leader of WAWS describes the project that was authorized barely 18 months ago and is now about ready to deliver drinking water to several oil-country towns.

(Jaert Wirtz, WAWS Executive Director) "We have put a pipeline in to Watford City and hope to turn on the city of Watford City in the middle of December. There's a pipeline from Wildrose to Crosby that was put in and Crosby should be getting service in mid-December as well."

Another customer that was scheduled to receive water in December will likely have to wait an extra month - the service to Ray, Tioga, and Stanley probably won't be ready until January. Meanwhile, hookups to rural customers are also about ready to be turned on.

(Jaert Wirtz, WAWS Executive Director) "There's another rural water system in McKenzie that is being currently put into use and that will begin as well so there's quite a few things happening."

Quite a few things happening because of a very aggressive schedule that's been pushed since the governor signed the bill authorizing WAWS back in May of last year.

(Jaert Wirtz, WAWS Executive Director) "We've put in 120 miles of transmission lines plus all the distribution and rural lines we've put in McKenzie and Williams County so there's been a lot of things done."

WAWS got its start about two years ago as communities in western North Dakota voiced concerns that they could not meet the water needs of their suddenly-growing populations. And legislators set up a unique way to pay the 150-million dollar price, allowing WAWS to set up depots to sell water to oil companies for use in exploration including hydraulic fracturing. Wirtz says while pipelines and water system work is pretty much on schedule, the water sales end of WAWS has been lagging.

(Jaert Wirtz, WAWS Executive Director) "That has been going slower than we thought, the depots weren't opening as fast as we expected. But we anticipate large amounts of sales once they do open because a lot of the private sellers are out of allocations and we have a supply to feed the needs of the industrial side."

The director of WAWS says all of the activity of the past 18 months has shown that legislators were right in getting WAWS going.

(Jaert Wirtz, WAWS Executive Director) "There was discussion of whether this thing was overbuilt and we've cleared that up and if anything there are plans of getting even bigger."

In Williston, Jim Olson, KX News.

Tomorrow, we'll report on plans for WAWS to expand - and what the project's board members will be asking for at the state legislature.

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