Future of local water moving forward

Perhaps one of the biggest questions facing communities around the country over the next 20 to 30 years and beyond is the availability of water.

Posted on 2/1/14

By Lee Coleman

Langdon and Cavalier County are no different.

In years past, conversations between the City of Langdon and the then-Langdon Rural Water district didn’t progress to a final decision on the future of water rights.

Now, Langdon Rural Water has merged with North Valley to become the Northeast Regional Water District.

At issue is the availability of water from the Munich aquifer. For both sides.

As such, the City and Northeast are trying to establish a solid foundation to work together and do what is best by all citizens.

As an early show of solidarity, the sides applied for permits together to begin the process of test drilling to determine the quality and capacity of the water.

“We are trying to work with the city of Langdon on an alternate water supply for the western area,” said Northeast general manager Gordon Johnson. “The alternate supply from Munich makes the most sense.

“To make that happen, the city and Northeast need to work together. That has been my goal over the last two years to come up with something that is satisfactory for both sides.”

Even in a perfect world, the project of piping water to this area from Munich will take time.

By some accounts, the permitting process through the North Dakota Water Commission could take as long as a year.

“After we hear from the state, the next step will be test drilling and testing the capacities,” Johnson explained. “If we find the capacities are there, the next step will be to have the two parties get together and start looking at what kind of arrangement we want to have here.”

Preliminary points to be resolved include where the water plant will be located, how to deal with concentrated water and who will run the plant and so forth.

As an example, early reports indicate the possibility of high levels of sodium and sulfates in the aquifer that will need addressing if the existence is confirmed.

The best viable solution to that potential issue could be the installation of a membrane filtration system used in conjunction with reverse osmosis.

The second part of that equation, if needed, would be the discussion of whether to retrofit the current treatment plant or go with something new.

According to Johnson, the Garrison Diversion studies for the Red River Valley water supply suggested should the current water supply from Mulberry Creek and Mt. Carmel Dam endure a 1930’s type drought situation, both sites would be very low on water.

“You have to have a vision for the future because those things can happen again and they probably will happen again,” Johnson added.

Recharged by rainfall and snow melt, the Munich aquifer has to be managed.

“They are storage aquifers and when you manage an aquifer, you always have to keep in mind never pulling more water than nature can sustain,” Johnson said. “That is really the criteria the state Water Commission uses when they grant permits.”

Northeast project manager Jeremy Schuler indicated the water treatment plant should stay in Langdon.

“If we can keep the facility here, it would make sense as far as employees being able to get to the facility, treating the water, keeping an eye on it and managing the day-to-day operations,” he said. “We do sit in a good area with the lagoon ponds to get rid of waste water.”

At the end of the day, Schuler said the biggest reward will go to the customers.

“It is all about the customers,” he explained. “Getting them the best quality water for the most reasonable price is most important.

“There are a lot of politics to it and a lot of money. It will take a lot of money to put this together.

“It could easily cost 15 to 20 million. That is a pretty fair figure to throw out there.”

To make the whole deal work, Johnson reiterated the importance of both sides working together.

“Maybe we should consider the Commerce Authority type structure where nobody loses and everybody is a winner and no one is completely in control,” he said.

Only time and a lot of negotiating will tell.