Population Explosion Changes Scope of $150M Water Project

Sat July 06, 2013 - Midwest Edition
Dorinda Anderson


S.J. Louis Inc. tackled just over 30 mi. (48 km) of the Western Area Water Supply Project (WAWSP) that includes hundreds of mi. of pipe to take water from the Missouri River to meet municipal, rural and industrial water needs in several counties, includin
S.J. Louis Inc. tackled just over 30 mi. (48 km) of the Western Area Water Supply Project (WAWSP) that includes hundreds of mi. of pipe to take water from the Missouri River to meet municipal, rural and industrial water needs in several counties, includin
S.J. Louis Inc. tackled just over 30 mi. (48 km) of the Western Area Water Supply Project (WAWSP) that includes hundreds of mi. of pipe to take water from the Missouri River to meet municipal, rural and industrial water needs in several counties, includin The overall goal of the project is to combine several individual community water systems into one centralized water system in western North Dakota to meet increasing water needs, due to the western North Dakota oil boom on the Bakken Oil Field and the exp S.J. Louis Inc. installed pipe below the frost level of 4 to 6.5 ft. (1.2 to 2 m) in extremely cold winters, from 7.5 up to 14 ft. (2.3 to 4.6 m) deep and even 18 ft. (5.5 m) in some areas.

Work on the Western Area Water Supply Project (WAWSP) began in May of 2012 and with determination to follow a schedule that took construction through the bitter cold winter months, crews finished placing underground water pipes by February 2013.

“Running pipe in cold weather was difficult but we finished the second week of February. We worked all winter long through cold and snow storms,” said Kevin Rundgren, project manager of S.J. Louis Inc., of Rockville, Minn. “In a day we placed between 1,500 and 1,800 feet, working at least 10 to 12 hours a day through the whole process.”

Work should be completed by the deadline of June 22. Currently, crews are testing lines and equipment, installing after-repair-valves, flushing stations and blow-offs, and finishing the final grading of farmers fields. “We just got 4 inches of rain so everything is at a standstill,” Rundgren said. “We are trying to get the farmers’ fields back in shape so they can plant.”

S.J. Louis Inc. tackled just over 30 mi. (48 km) of the WAWSP that includes hundreds of mi. of pipe to take water from the Missouri River to meet municipal, rural and industrial water needs in several counties, including McKenzie, Williams, Divide, Burke and Mountrail. The population of those five counties is projected to grow to about 100,000 over the next 20 years.

About 120 mi. (193 km) of transmission lines have been placed by several contractors, along with distribution and rural lines in McKenzie and Williams counties. The project takes advantage of local infrastructure that is currently in place.

The Western Area Water Supply Authority was created in 2011 by the North Dakota State Legislature, consisting of the city of Williston, the McKenzie County Water Resource District, the Williams Rural Water District, the R&T Water Supply Association, and the BDW Rural Water District.

The overall goal of the project is to combine several individual community water systems into one centralized water system in western North Dakota to meet increasing water needs, due to the western North Dakota oil boom on the Bakken Oil Field and the exploding population that came with it. Many water systems, in addition to not being able to keep up with demand, are failing. For example, water from the pipeline became available to Watford City in late 2012, so the city can now shut down its water treatment plant that needed about $7 million in upgrades.

In addition to saving communities the cost of upgrading water systems is the savings on roads. The WAWSP project is expected to save between $29 million and $51 million over the next 20 years in wear and tear on county and township road systems, due to reduced oil industry traffic. Reduced truck traffic also means increased safety on roadways.

S.J. Louis Inc. installed pipe below the frost level of 4 to 6.5 ft. (1.2 to 2 m) in extremely cold winters, from 7.5 up to 14 ft. (2.3 to 4.6 m) deep and even 18 ft. (5.5 m) in some areas.

“One spot is 30 feet deep where we had to dig through a hill,” Rundgren said. “We used a 385 Cat to do the digging. We had to widen and sub-cut large enough to fit in the trench boxes, to prevent the soil from caving in while the crews worked. The boxes are 30 feet long, 8 feet wide and 10 feet high. For the deep cuts we put a stacker box on top of the trench box, which is another 4 feet.” Once the pipe was placed and fitted together, crews worked rapidly to cover it, using the native soil.

This 30-plus mi. (48 km) stretch, which is part of Phase II, runs north from the Williston water treatment plant, which is the beginning of the WAWSP line in the heart of the oil boom, to Ray, which is north and east. The pipe is 24 in. (61 cm) in diameter where it connects to pump station in Williston. The last 20 mi. (32 km) of the pipe is slightly smaller at 20 in. (51 cm), Rundgren said. Sixteen-in. (40 cm) pipe was used at 13-mi. (21 km) corner, at the junction of Highway 2, for the new water-fill depot. At this corner the pipeline switches directions and travels east to Ray.

Along this 30-mi. (48 km) stretch there are two reservoirs and one pumping station; but, throughout this $110 million portion of the project, several storage reservoirs are being constructed across the WAWSA service territory, creating about 15 million gal. of new storage, said Dustin Schultz, Assistant Project Manager for Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc. (AE2S).

The original business plan called for 15 bulk fill depot locations but the number was reduced to 12 in consideration of private depots, input from oil companies, and water availability. Independent water providers are concerned that the state has taken over a massive portion of the water supply project in western North Dakota, thus competing with them. The 2013 North Dakota Legislature gave authority to the state Water Commission to locate new WAWSP depots but locations of independent depots must be taken into consideration.

Additionally, the Williston water treatment plant is being expanded from 10 to 14 million gal. a day (MGD). This is the first phase of a construction project that will allow the plant to treat more water to serve the growing areas of Williston and the rest of the WAWSP members, according to information from North Dakota Legislative WAWSP update. During Phase II of the expansion, the plant’s capacity will increase to 21 MGD. Construction on Phase II is to start soon and be completed by the end of 2014. The cost of this expansion is about $26.5 million.

Work on this $110 million-plus project began in 2011 with three initial phases. Work on Phase I and Phase II, totaling $110 million, is expected to be complete by the end of the 2013 construction season.

Work on Phase I of the project began in 2011 and included improvements to the 26th Street pump station; pipeline improvements in the Williston area running north from Highway 2 to County Road 7; and, pipeline improvements running from County Road 7 to the Bakken Industrial Park north of Williston along Highway 2.

An interim Williston by-pass transmission line, required 10.5 mi. (17 km) of line to bring water to the expanding industrial parks on the west and north side of Williston. A 5 million gal. reservoir connects to the interim bypass line that serves several growing areas.

The final bypass line is scheduled for construction in 2013-2014.

Phase II included the installation of 30 mi. (48 km) of transmission line between Williston and Ray, as well as another 30 mi. from Indian Hill to Watford City. The transmission line to Watford City will allow Watford City and McKenzie County Rural Water to replace the current source of groundwater.

Currently, seven industrial depots are bringing in revenue to repay state loans, some with a mix of cold and hot water lanes. Oil companies prefer heated water for hydraulic fracturing in colder climates such as North Dakota. Oil companies use hydraulic fracturing, which is a process of fracturing rock layers using pressurized water. A large amount of water is mixed with sand and/or chemicals and injected at high pressure into faults to release the oil.

What started as a pretty straight forward project to supply water to rural users, quickly changed as population explosion continued, due to the oil boom, changing the scope of the project faster than it can be constructed. “The original population projections indicated a service population of about 48,000 people. Now, new population projections indicate in excess of 100,000 people to be served in the WAWSA service territory,” Schult said.

A recent housing study by the Center for Social Research at North Dakota State University, Fargo, N.D., predicts the population of the five county area of the WAWSP will reach about 89,000 by 2025. A 2012 housing needs assessment predicts that Divide and Williams counties will more than double in population, while McKenzie County will nearly triple by 2025.

When planning for the project began more than two years ago, there were service requests for 400 rural users, according to information from North Dakota Legislative WAWSP update. “At that time there were no requests for residential developments, commercial lots, crew camps or RV parks. Since then, service requests have skyrocketed to 15,000, which is nearly 40 times what was initially anticipated. Furthermore, rural water system sign-ups doubled or tripled in some of the project areas. For example, the McKenzie System IV Rural Water System in western McKenzie County was planned to have 120 users but ballooned to nearly 300 within the first few months of the start of the project.”

At the onset of the project, $150 million was allocated during the 2011 Legislative session. Of that, $110 million would be provided right away through loans. Financing is being covered through a series of loans issued by the state of North Dakota, including $25 million from the state Water Commission, $50 million from the Bank of North Dakota, $25 million from the state’s General Fund, and $10 million from the state Water Commission’s budget, for a total of $110 million.

About 90 percent of this project cost is to meet the domestic water use, while 10 percent of the project cost is to meet the needs of the oil industry. A unique repayment plan is in place where the 10 percent of the water that the oil industry purchases will finance about 80 percent of the initial cost of the project, according to information from WAWSP.

The WAWSP returned to the Legislature during its 2013 session to receive the remaining $40 million. In addition to the $40 million for Phase III, WAWSP requested another $79 million, which it was granted, to cover additional costs of this rapidly expanding project. With the population explosion came new subdivisions in several cities, and the rural areas are also growing, causing the need for an expanded water service and more funding to construct that larger system.

The project may require even more funding in the future, bring the updated projected project cost of WAWSP to about $350 million, according to information from North Dakota Legislative WAWSP update.