January 17, 2019

Routine, add-on projects make big improvements for residents

The days of new rural water systems are, in essence, over. It is very rare to see a new rural water district started, but there are still areas in the U.S. where households do not have access to safe potable water. In our current rural water environment, these areas are often neglected because they are financially unfeasible to serve.

Yet, one of the greatest rewards of working in rural water is bringing water to areas that have never been served by a community potable water system before. Bartlett & West is fortunate to be active in several mid-sized expansion projects that accomplish exactly this task. These expansion projects will relieve homeowners of the unenviable task of hauling water or the unsafe practice of drinking poor-quality groundwater. Bartlett & West also can assist water supply systems with acquiring grant funds, which is a major factor in the feasibility of expansion projects.

A sample of various system expansion projects underway include the following:

Richardson County RWD No. 2, Nebraska

For years many rural households had safe and ample groundwater supply to meet their domestic needs. However, as crop irrigation increased, the groundwater level decreased to the point where wells were not reliable year-around. In addition, in locations where the groundwater level maintained, over-fertilization led to unsafe nitrate levels in the water. Such circumstances led to the expansion of Richardson Co. RWD No. 2, in Nebraska.

An area of about 100-square miles north of Falls City has never been served by rural water because the demand was not enough. This changed in the last few years and now there is a large demand. Seventy potential customers paid an initial deposit.

The subsequent engineering study showed that an expansion involving 45 miles of new 2-inch through 6-inch pipe is feasible, provided that grant funds are received through USDA Rural Development. A subsequent application was made to USDA and a funding commitment is expected soon.

In addition to these residential customers, RWD No. 2 has reached an agreement with the State of Nebraska Games and Parks Commission to provide service to the Indian Cave State Park, allowing their small and inefficient treatment plant to be abandoned. Due to the urgency of the State Park’s need, that portion of the project is currently in construction.

Southwest Regional Water District, Iowa

Southwest Regional serves nearly 2,000 customers in three counties in the very southwest corner of Iowa. The District was active in expansions during the 1980s and 90s but has grown very little in the last 20 years. Recently, though, the District committed to an improvement project that will involve the construction of two new groundwater wells, a transmission pipeline and more than 30 miles of distribution pipeline, which would add 50 new customers. Again, USDA will provide funding.

The new customers are spread out around the perimeter of the existing distribution system. The slow expansion of the District could potentially continue for years, as there is no other District that borders directly to Southwest Regional. The new wells and transmission line will help to ensure an adequate supply is available for this continued growth.

Linn County RWD No. 2, Kansas

Expansion is typically much easier for large water districts that have a sound financial position and many active customers to help absorb the cost of a long-term investment. Others, though, like Linn County RWD No. 2 struggle just to stay afloat and consider expansion to be a luxury that is not feasible. Bartlett & West is, at times, able to help Districts like this find financial benefit in expansion.

RWD No. 2 maintains a large distribution system that, in part, surrounds the Sugar Valley Lake development south of Mound City, in east-central Kansas. Many of the full-time and seasonal houses/cabins around the lake are not being served by the District and are up to a mile away from the closest pipeline. Given the significant sub-surface rock and multiple yards to navigate through, the cost of installing pipeline to these customers is comparably very high. Furthermore, there has never been an effort to expand service to multiple customers at one time. Rather, extensions are occasionally installed to individual customers at a very high cost.

With the leadership of Bartlett & West and an ambitious chairman, an expansion project is currently in the development stage. Nearly 50 customers are likely to be added, with only five miles of new pipe. The cost is significant, though, because of the rock. Significant grant funds will be required. As this is an area where nearly all home owners are required to haul water and incomes are moderately low, it is anticipated that the grant funds will be received, and the project will proceed towards construction by 2020.

Tri-County Water District, North Dakota

Tri-County Water District serves approximately 1,100 customers in northeastern North Dakota. The District completed several system expansion and improvements projects during the past two decades; however, the system demand has surpassed the amount of water available at their only water treatment facility. With a significant number of potential users within the District still desiring rural water service, Tri-County considered options to provide additional capacity to the system.

The City of McVille, which is within the existing boundaries of the Tri-County Water District, has a water treatment facility that only utilizes a fraction of its available capacity to serve the town population. This meant the City of McVIlle had additional capacity available and was capable of providing potable water to Tri-County, which would allow them to serve additional users throughout the system. Bartlett & West coordinated with Tri-County Water District to execute a water purchase agreement with the City of McVille and to secure funding for an expansion project. With the supplemental capacity from the City of McVille and funding from the ND State Water Commission, Tri-County Water District is currently moving forward with an expansion project that will add approximately 80 miles of distribution pipeline and connect approximately 80 new customers with the potential for additional future expansion phases.

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