North Dakota State Fair goers had a chance to learn more about how water is managed in the state during the Water Day Festival of Fun on Thursday.
Jean Schafer, communication director for the North Dakota Education Foundation, said the festival gave representatives from different water management groups in the state an opportunity to interact with the public.
"We've had really nice, steady traffic," said Schafer, who said this is the fifth year the event has been held at the fair. It would have been the sixth year if not for the flood of 2011.
Visitors had a chance to play a trivia game and do activities at different booths, as well as enjoying free snow cones in the afternoon.
Of particular interest to visitors in the Minot area were the Souris River flood control project, said Schafer.
The North Dakota Water Education Foundation is sponsoring water tours this summer to offer visitors a firsthand look at North Dakota's critical water issues. A tour of the Souris River will be held Aug. 8. The tour will focus on sites around Minot and the surrounding region, including the Lake Darling Dam, Mouse River Park, and Burlington and provide information about the Mouse River Basin Enhanced Flood Protection Project. Individual registration for the tour costs $20 and includes tour transportation, meals, refreshments, informational material and a one-year subscription to the North Dakota Water magazine. For more information, call the North Dakota Water Education Foundation at 223-8332 or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tim Freije, the project manager for the Northwest Area Water Supply project, said ongoing lawsuits filed by Manitoba and Missouri have held up work on NAWS which, when completed, would supply water from Lake Sakakawea to the city of Minot and its users and to a rural water distribution system that will serve many smaller communities and hundreds of rural users. According to the project website, water will be drawn from Lake Sakakawea and pretreated before traveling through 45 miles of 30-inch and 36-inch pipe, generally following U.S. Highway 83, to the municipal water treatment plant in Minot for final treatment. Once treated, the water will be supplied to not only the city of Minot and its users, but to communities and rural users throughout north central and northwest North Dakota, potentially supplying over 90,000 people. The completed project would be sized to handle up to 26 million gallons per day, meeting current and future demand.
Freije said the latest round of litigation and environmental reviews could hold up continued work on the project for another year.
"It's frustrating if you're an engineer," said Freije, since they can't finish the project. Freije said he sees a great need for more water in northwest North Dakota, especially with the increased population brought to the state by the ongoing oil boom.
Freije said lower water quality is also an issue in some of the towns that would be served by NAWS. Minot, the state's fourth largest city, has a higher rate of dissolved solids in its city water supply than the state's other large cities, including Grand Forks and Bismarck, said Freije.
"We can use all the water we can get up here," said Freije.
Freije said he hadn't had a lot of visitors at his booth on Thursday. People seemed a bit more interested in the flood control project, he said.