Water Providers Fight WAWS Expansion - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Water Providers Fight WAWS Expansion

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Water - by the millions of gallons per day - is required to feed the region's oil boom, and to feed the needs of the people who live in the region.

That's where the Western Area Water Supply project has raced in to help.

In less than two years, WAWS has gone from an idea, to a project already delivering drinking water to thousands of people.

But the way the 2011 legislature financed WAWS - by selling bulk water to the oil industry - is rubbing some people the wrong way.

It has put the state in competition with private North Dakotans who've been selling water for years.

And those Independent Water Providers are asking the 2013 legislature to put the brakes on the industrial water sales portion of WAWS.

Jim Olson reports.

The water truck drivers pulling up to this water sales depot appreciate the speed and simplicity of the process.

"This is one of our main places..."

It takes barely 15 minutes for them to fill their tanks and head off to a nearby drilling rig to supply the water that will coax oil from the Bakken Shale.

"It's pretty easy!"

It's a service Terance Ortloff of Ross has been providing since 2005.

You're the water pioneer right now? (Terance Ortloff, IWP) "Yeah that's what they say."

(Mike Ames, IWP) "Started in the water business in northwest North Dakota in 1982."

Mike Ames has been in the water business a long time too - he's even served on the State Water Commission. Nowadays, his company runs 14 water sales depots in the Mon-Dak region including here in the Little Muddy area near 13 mile corner north of Williston.

(Mike Ames, IWP) "Within a small radius, there's ten independent water depots, individuals who've taken advantage of the market that's there."

Ames and the members of the Independent Water Providers say they fully support the idea of the state helping to bring potable water to communities and rural water systems in western North Dakota. They just don't think their tax dollars should be paying for their own competition in water sales.

(Mike Ames, IWP) "Everybody wants good water and we totally support that, have always supported rural water and water development as a whole. Our biggest concern in this whole process is that we would be restricted from doing what we've been doing over the last 30 years in developing water resources for the people of North Dakota."

That's why they're pushing Senate Bill 2359 - a bill that says WAWS cannot build any more than the 12 water depots already established in the area. The bill also says any future financing from the state should be in the form of grants - not loans that would have to be repaid through water sales.

(Mike Ames, IWP) "We're OK with them getting grant money as long as it is entirely used for rural and municipal development and none of it goes for industrial development to compete with us unfairly."

The Independent Water Providers plan to spend lots of time in Bismarck in the next few weeks, hoping to win the argument about how the delivery of water to the people of western North Dakota is financed. Jim Olson, KX News.

A House committee will hear arguments on Senate Bill 2359 Thursday.

It would limit WAWS industrial water sales and turn over management of the project to the State Water Commission.

The bill passed the Senate during the first half of the legislative session.

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