U.S. Water News Online
BILLINGS -- Residents in at least seven central Montana
towns are banding together to rid their tap water of sodium, minerals
and other bad-tasting gunk.
Officials in Roundup, Melstone, Lavina, Broadview, Harlowton,
Hobson and Judith Gap formed the Central Montana Regional Water
Authority last month as a first step toward a regional water system.
Ryegate and Moore have also expressed interest.
The group is considering drilling wells thousands of feet deep
into a limestone formation and building 220 miles of pipeline at a
cost of up to $50 million.
Although it could be up to 10 years before the project becomes a
reality, officials in several towns insist it's necessary to ensure
safe drinking water and keep the area growing.
"This is vital for all of us,'' said Dale Longfellow, mayor of
Hobson and chairman of the new authority. "It's a matter of
long-range survival for many little communities.''
Residents in Hobson still rely on individual wells for drinking
water. Only about half of those produce quality water, Longfellow
The proposed water project will depend on deep wells tapping into
reserves flowing through the porous limestone of the Madison
Formation, a vast rock layer that stretches underneath central
A test well drilled last year near Utica yielded tenuous results.
Crews hit water, but had to drill deeper than they thought to get
to it. And the well produced 350 gallons per minute in preliminary
tests, far less than the 1,200 gallons a minute needed to serve 5,000
people under the proposed system, said Monty Sealey, coordinator of
the Central Montana Resource and Development program.
Initial plans estimate three wells will be needed to produce
Because crews had to drill so much deeper for water, there is no
grant money left to test for water quality and other standards. That
will likely force the authority to ask for the remaining $40,000 to
$50,000 from the Legislature, Sealey said.
If water quality and quantity is good enough, work will begin on
designing the 220-mile-long pipeline connecting the involved
communities. Feasibility and scientific questions must also be
studied, and Sealey anticipates going to Congress for portions of the
"People are skeptical, but until we get a certain level of
information, we can't even answer the questions,'' he said. "As soon
as we get more information, we'll get it out there. We want to get
more people in the loop.''
If the project is rejected or does not appear feasible, the
involved communities will likely have to develop water treatment
systems that could cost more than a regional system, Sealey said.
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