There was a recent meeting of the Water Topics Overview Committee in Bismarck that was comprised of 16 different presentations. Some observations include:
Water use in the Bakken shale oil play is at an all-time high. Jon Patch, Director of Water Appropriations at the State Water Commission, typified the typical frac job in 2012 at 12 acre feet and stated that with today’s increased percentage of oil extracted per fracture, the water usage is closer to 25 acre feet. To put that in perspective, he offered the comparison of a 10,000 head herd of cattle consuming 30 to 40 gallons of water per day equaling 400 acre feet per year.
Garland Erbele, State Engineer at the State Water Commission, stated that about 32 percent of total North Dakota water usage comes from the Missouri River. He also said that the bulk of that water emanates from the Montana Rockies and that the snowpack this year was exceptionally high. Added to that was a later melt in that area which adds up to significant incoming water throughout that system. Garrison dam is releasing water at a high rate and that is expected to continue. Erbele said he has confidence that the situation in relation to flooding seems well in hand.
Water Topics is studying the feasibility of and appropriate jurisdiction for regulation of sediment studies and dredging operations from the beds of reservoirs as required by 2017 House Bill 1020. No one state agency has complete control of dredging but it is shared by Game and Fish, the Industrial Commission and the Health Department. No wonder they need a study. Anyway, the State Geologist said he will discuss a new chapter in the Century Code as a bill proposal at their next meeting.
They heard from the USDA in terms of grants helping rural communities such as Benedict, ND. Their mayor testified that as a city of 79 citizens, anything they do to improve or stabilize their water system will be spendy and they are looking at the option of applying for a USDA grant. Chairman Schmidt said that 73 small communities in our state would benefit from rural water hookups. We also heard from the city of Fargo operating the Diversion project on Plan B. It increases the flow through Fargo up to 37 feet (it was 35). They are theorizing that the Project will operate about once every 20 years, on average. Local funding they said makes up 66 percent of the non-Federal share and state funding of the non-Fed is 33 percent with $507 million of legislative funding and $304 of that appropriated to date. Water Topics committee will be touring that and more in Fargo in a September meeting.
I will wrap this with a touch of good news on the status of the Resources Trust Fund – it is up about $6.4 million or around 13 percent more than anticipated, plus a water fund (could not discern which one) just received $19.5 million from the tobacco settlement.