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Bismarck Water Treatment Plant crews get ready for summer season during drought

Published: Mar. 27, 2021 at 6:54 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A little moisture fell in some areas on Saturday, but conditions are very dry across much of North Dakota.

According to the United States Drought Monitor, more than half of the state is dealing with a severe drought and 14 percent is facing extreme conditions.

That is affecting multiple industries.

Drought conditions have created additional challenges for water facilities in Bismarck.

Jim Kershaw worked as an operator at the Bismarck Water Treatment Plant for almost three decades before becoming the superintendent at the facility.

“Back in 1984 it wasn’t quite as computer driven and it was more manual,” said Kershaw.

When Jim isn’t preparing spreadsheets he walks around the plant to make sure millions of gallons of water are flowing smoothly.

One of the biggest concerns during a drought, is making sure enough water is coming through.

“When we’re in drought conditions, you end up having more water that’s used for lawn watering and that actually maxes out the system more than it does in a normal year,” said director of utility operations at Bismarck Public Works Michelle Klose.

Even when rivers levels are low, they still have the horizontal collector well.

The collector well goes 80 feet below the ground and was completed in 2014 to upgrade water quality and quantity.

“We have to look at what infrastructure is really causing those restrictions and trying to put planning together to put construction dollars to improve those areas so that we have more supply available,” said Klose.

But even with the upgrades, they say keeping an eye on how much water you’re using is important because during the summer, the treatment plant often runs every filter at 100 percent power and that stresses equipment.

“It’s like hopping in your car and tromping the accelerator and going 200 miles to Fargo,” said Kershaw.

Water treatment plant managers aren’t sure how the weather will play out over the next couple of months.

Michelle Klose the director of utility operations at Bismarck Public Works says over the next five to 10 years, they might have to look for a new location for another water treatment plant as the city grows.

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