Learning From Each Other

Joint projects and shared successes help lift the whole industry

I got a call from one of my writers, Ken Wysocky, the other day. He wanted to check in and update me on a story he’s writing about the Red River Valley Water Supply Project in North Dakota for our next issue. This isn’t the story of a standard municipal utility serving its local residents, so he wanted to make sure he was on the right track.  

The Dakota Water Resources Act of 2000 authorized the Red River Valley Water Supply Project in order to provide a reliable supply of quality drinking water for the Red River Valley. The project will bring water from the Missouri River near Washburn, North Dakota, to the Sheyenne River, closely running along the Highway 200 corridor in central North Dakota. Using the river conveyance will enhance return flow capture allowing reuse of the RRVWSP water. This route also provides benefits to the aquatic environment of fish, mussels and the riparian habitat. There are minimal impacts on the Missouri River using this supported route, and it’s reliable. This route utilizes Lake Ashtabula as a storage reservoir and state-of-the-art water treatment plants that are already in operation. While originally targeted at serving only the Red River Valley, the project has evolved to benefit users throughout central North Dakota. 

Anyway, the conversation with Ken shifted into how starkly different our water resources are here in Wisconsin versus the Red River Valley and much of the West. Ken lives a few blocks away from Lake Michigan. I have a crystal clear 455-acre lake out my back door. After a record-setting snowfall total this past winter and our share of spring rains, the past couples weeks of warm, dry weather felt like a drought. Unless you live somewhere where drought and water scarcity are real. Here it’s a welcomed — if not fully effective — brake applied to the prolific mosquito hatch. Where you live it might mean aquifer depletion. 

The conversation led to our admiration for the technology and ingenuity present in the water and wastewater industry, for all the different challenges your utilities face and all the different ways you approach and overcome them. 

One state away from the Red River Valley Water Supply Project, the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Water Department — featured in this issue — is part of its own collective. The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System is a 20-member organization that supplies water to communities in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. More than half of the Sioux Falls’ water supply flows in from two connections to the regional supplier. 

But Sioux Falls is also laying the groundwork for its own water infrastructure expansion, necessitated by a booming population. Without reliable water flow or source data, the city took on a master planning process that centered around a six-month water model calibration in search of accurate data. The project gave the city hard information upon which decisions could be made about proper sizing of infrastructure and how to effectively troubleshoot future flow problems, along with other management issues. 

It’s always interesting to learn about how you’re improving your systems, operations and communities. You all have your own challenges, but each has something to learn from the other.  

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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