2019 Legislative Progress Report

North Dakota’s 2019 legislative session has passed the halfway point. The Western Area Water Supply Authority (WAWSA) is seeking $40 million from the State Water Commission’s budget for the 2019-2021 biennium. That $40 million would be matched by $15 million in loan funds to provide WAWSA with $55 million in total capital improvements funding. The State Water Commission budget (SB 2020) is under consideration in the House.

 “The funding WAWS receives in the State Water Commission’s budget will determine how much progress we can make on connecting rural customers to high-quality water over the next two years,” says Curtis Wilson, WAWSA Executive Director.

 As proposed, the State Water Commission budget includes $5 million less for water supply projects than was provided in the 2017-2019 biennium budget. SB 2020 includes $115 million for water supply projects. During the last session, WAWSA requested $29 million and received $20 million out of the $120 million that was available.

 “We are hopeful legislators and the State Water Commission continue to recognize the importance of the Western Area Water Supply Project’s contributions to the well-being of northwestern North Dakota,” says Wilson. “This is an area of the state where residents have had poor quality water for too long. We need to continue to deliver drinking water to the rural folks who have signed up for service and have been waiting for it for years.” 

 If WAWSA’s funding request is approved, construction of the following water transmission and distribution infrastructure projects will expand rural water service in northwest North Dakota over the next two years:

 To keep treatment capacity ahead of the ever-increasing domestic water demands, the expansion process at the Williston Regional Water Treatment Plant must be initiated now, as it will take up to four years for the expansion to be completed - two years for planning, permitting, and design and two years for construction. Based on the current population and water demand projections, WAWSA could be forced into eliminating industrial water sales during peak demand periods as soon as 2024 if treatment capacity is not expanded.

 To date, WAWSA has constructed more than 1,500 miles of pipeline to deliver water to cities and rural areas in Burke, Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail, and Williams Counties. Currently, about 60,000 people receive drinking water from WAWSA. In addition to rural customers across five northwestern North Dakota counties, residents of Williston, Watford City, Ray, Tioga, Stanley, Wildrose, Crosby, Fortuna, Noonan, Columbus, and Ross receive WAWSA service.