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Water a hot commodity

Press Photo by Lisa Anne Call Norm Haakenson of Dickinson, a truck driver for Hamm & Phillips Service Co., shows a newer driver how to hook up to the city's water vendor on Broadway Street, Aug. 4.

Sprawling lines of shimmering, silver water trucks have quickly become a common vision on Dickinson's Broadway Street, with some trucks waiting hours to fill.

"We have had a spike in water usage at the water vendor in July," said City Administrator Shawn Kessel at an Aug. 2 City Commission meeting. "We are well over a million gallons issued."

After the last available water vendor in Killdeer reached its allotment of water sales last month, many water haulers have been traveling to Dickinson to fill.

Now, the long monstrous trucks can often be seen roaring down Villard Street, heading out of town.

About 300 companies have access to purchase water, said Bill Fahlsing, Dickinson's public information officer.

One big purchaser is Enid, Okla.-based Hamm & Phillips Service Co.

Barry Holm, a truck driver for Hamm & Phillips, said filling the 5,200 gallon tank usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the day.

Last week, his wait time was much longer.

"I sat here four hours and I finally left and went over to Belfield and got a load of water, but I waited about an hour and a half over there," Holm said.

Many drivers are feeling the ripple affects of increased oil activity.

"It's totally crazy, totally crazy," said Norm Haakenson, a lifelong Dickinson resident, who is also a driver for Hamm & Phillips.

Haakenson said he also has had to wait four hours to fill and last week, 19 trucks were in line, waiting to fill at the city water vendor.

Prior to the booming activity, Haakenson said he generally saw only one or two trucks, now "10, 12 trucks here is nothing."

The city buys water from Southwest Water Authority at a contract rate of $3.17 per 1,000 gallons and presently charges $5 per 1,000 gallons. Beginning Monday, the fee will increase to $15 per 1,000 gallons.

Kessel said the fee increase would put Dickinson "on par with what that competition charges."

New Town charges $25 per 1,000 gallons and Mandaree charges $20 per 1,000 gallons.

"Some of the indications I've got from the field indicate that the price of water is escalating and I think that $15 per thousand is too low," said Dickinson Commissioner Rod Landblom. "I'd rather see something in the $20 to $25 per thousand gallons."

Although the city purchases water from SWA at $3.17 per 1,000 gallons, it sells for a higher rate to cover operational expenses, Fahlsing said in an e-mail.

The total July water bill for all water purchasers combined was slightly more than $28,000, Fahlsing said.

Fahlsing said there is a 6 million gallon-per-day cap on water the city receives from SWA.

The city sold an average of about 42 million gallons monthly from January through May and in June, 54 million gallons were sold.

Surpassing any water limits is not cause for concern just yet.

"Reviewing historical data, the Southwest Water Authority has advised that cap has not been reached," Fahlsing said in an e-mail. "There is not a penalty in the contract for the city going above the cap."

Dickinson, Southwest Water Authority and the State Water Commission would discuss use if that did occur, he said.