Industrial Commission

Jaret Wirtz, the executive director of the Western Area Water Supply Authority, second from right, talks about the project's financial records on Tuesday to members of the Industrial Commission at the state Capitol in Bismarck. 8-26-2014

BISMARCK, N.D. _ The North Dakota Industrial Commission has authorized work on a new water storage facility as part of a regional water project in the oil patch.

The three-member commission unanimously authorized engineering and bidding on a 2 million gallon storage facility to be built in McKenzie County. The Western Area Water Supply Authority would be reimbursed for the $120,000 cost.

Jaret Wirtz, executive director of the authority, said the project would be built at its Indian Hills reservoir on the south side of the Missouri River. The total cost of the project is expected to be approximately $2 million.

Wirtz said providing water for domestic use is the priority of the WAWS system. Excess water is being sold at water depots to the oil and gas industry to pay off the cost of the project.

Due to spiking population and demand, particularly in Williston and Watford City, industrial sales have been restricted or even halted temporarily.

“To assist us in meeting these industrial demands and preventing limitations and shutdowns to our customers WAWS has determined that an additional storage facility is needed,” Wirtz said in a letter to the commission.

Wirtz said the request has been in the works for months.

The Western Area Water Supply Authority was originally a $150 million regional project approved during the 2011 legislative session. A total of $110 million was provided at that time through a Bank of North Dakota loan. The authority was to come back in 2013 for the remaining $40 million.

In 2013, lawmakers approved the final $40 million along with $79 million for more water projects.

Residents of the project’s five-county service area will be using Missouri River water with an expanded water treatment plant in Williston. The system would provide municipal and rural water to surrounding communities, including Watford City, Ray, Tioga, Stanley, Wildrose and Crosby.

Wirtz said the hope is to have the water storage facility completed by June 2015.

The entire WAWS system currently has a storage capacity of about 22 million gallons, Wirtz said.

Some of the highest demand for water has been in McKenzie County, where drilling activity has exploded in the last couple of years and caused a population spike in and around Watford City.

Wirtz said the current combined system capacity in Watford City and the county is about 5 million gallons. The additional 2 million gallons in McKenzie County would ease the pressure on that part of the system and provide for more industrial sales.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at