WORTHINGTON, Minn.— In a little more than a month, the city of Worthington will be turning on the tap to accept over 1.9 million gallons of water per day from the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System.
The Lewis & Clark water, which comes from an aquifer adjacent to the Missouri River in South Dakota and now feeds into 20 cities and rural water systems in that state, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota, will be blended 50-50 with the water from Worthington’s nine wells.
Worthington has been at the easternmost part or end of the system, which begins more than a 100 miles away south of Vermillion in South Dakota. Thus, it has been expensive and time-consuming to get the water pipeline completed..
The city has also been fighting for another water supply for years because of shallow wells in the area and during drought years it has dried up the water supply. Another big issue has been economic development. The city has had to turn down offers for bigger businesses because of the lack of a reliable water supply.
“It was not a great year for construction for anybody, and they have fallen a bit behind,” said Troy Larson, executive director of the system based in Tea, S.D. “The good news, though things can always change with contractors, is everything looks to be a go in terms of getting water to Worthington by late November, early December.”
Contractors planned to complete pipe installation by the end of this week, he noted. Once that is done, disinfection and pressure testing of the lines can begin.
Worthington Public Utilities general manager Scott Hain said the hardness of the water will be cut by about 40 percent. Within a couple months after blending has started, Hain said city water users will be notified they can adjust their water softeners. The softer water coming in should mean a savings to residents in the amount of salt they use for water softening.
As crews finish the pipeline to Worthington and complete a 2-million gallon reservoir to store water, work is also progressing on the city’s water treatment plant.
With the connection to LCRWS soon to be a reality, Hain’s excitement is building.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” he said.
Hain lobbied hard for the Minnesota Legislature to advance funding to complete the Minnesota portion of the Lewis & Clark water project, doing so at a time when local lakes were shrinking and portions of Lake Bella, the city’s wellhead, had dried up during a multi-year drought.
Today, the opposite is true.
“Our well levels are essentially the highest they’ve been in 30 years,” Hain said. “Yet it isn’t a matter of if the next drought will come, it’s a matter of when.”
Larson said a celebration marking the completion of the water line to Worthington is planned, though a date has yet to be set.
“We are trying to coordinate with Gov. (Mark) Dayton’s schedule to see if we can do a celebration in December,” Larson said. “If he can’t make it, we would likely wait until spring to let the weather cooperate. He’s been so incredibly helpful and supportive with the federal funding advances. Without those advances, we would be years away from getting water to Worthington.”
While Worthington readies to celebrate, the growth of Lewis & Clark continues. On Thursday, the LCRWS awarded a contract for test and observation wells to be constructed at the system’s main wellfield at Mulberry Point, south of Vermillion, S.D. The plan is to eventually construct a collector well there that will get 16 million gallons of water a day.
“As we’re adding more members like Worthington, we need to add more well capacity,” Larson said.