It's a very critical project for this part of the state.
That's how State Engineer Todd Sando characterizes NAWS - the Northwest Area Water Supply project.
But Sando says it will still be years before any water starts flowing from the Missouri River into the pipes already buried for NAWS.
He told a legislative committee yesterday in Minot that lawsuits from Canada and the state of Missouri continue to keep NAWS stalled.
NAWS was first authorized in 1986 to bring Missouri River water to Minot for distribution to water systems around the region.
So far, 116 million dollars has been spent installing pipe from Lake Sakakawea to Minot, and service lines from Minot to several area towns.
But the lawsuits that have been in-process since 2002 have now resulted in a complete stop to work on NAWS.
And Sando sees that lasting at least a couple more years.
(Todd Sando, ND State Engineer) "I'd say hopefully sometime by the end of next year we might know where we stand on the judge's ruling. At that point, I see appeals either the United States side appealing or the Canadian side appealing so I'd say that could be another year after that so that's going to be. That's kind of the situation at hand right now."
Also testifying at yesterday's hearing was Dan Schaefer of the All Seasons Water Users District.
He says there's an urgent need for expansion of his system in the Bottineau area, but he's running out of time to wait for NAWS to be given the legal green light.
(Dan Schaefer, All Seasons Water Users) "And to say we're going to get water from NAWS, it's hard to stand in front of a group of people and talk about bringing them water when we don't know when NAWS will be there. So, the big issue is NAWS for us."
NAWS is already delivering water to some areas - using the Minot water source as its supply.
But in order for the system to be fully operational, it requires water from the Missouri River.