For the past 30 years, Southwest Water Authority (SWA) has been serving the City of Dickinson with award-winning quality water and recently celebrated its 30-year milestone as a political subdivision.

During a special presentation Tuesday at City Hall, SWA CEO Mary Massad noted her gratitude to the City of Dickinson in making this partnership a lasting one for three decades. Massad acknowledged some of the SWA’s achievements to the Dickinson City Commission in its regularly scheduled meeting, including its ranking as third for air and water quality in the United States.

Mayor Scott Decker was one of the city officials to congratulate Massad and SWA’s accomplishments.

“Thank you so much for everything you do as a leader in Southwest Water along with the board members,” Decker said. “I know I really appreciate it and I’m sure all the commission and the citizens do appreciate all of the hard work. Fresh water is so important to just our livelihood, and I think sometimes it’s taken for granted. But I know we appreciate the ability to turn on the tap and have… award-winning water on a daily basis.”

Commissioner John Odermann added that clean water is “definitely a quality of life component.”

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Currently, SWA services approximately 56,000 people with more than 7,300 rural customers and 34 contract customers, Massad said. Serving 33 communities throughout the southwestern North Dakota region, SWA has water available at three crew camps and serves two other water systems — Missouri West Water System in Morton County and Perkins County Rural Water System in South Dakota.

A ribbon cutting ceremony commemorates the first day that Dickinson receives water from the Southwest Pipeline Project on Oct. 22, 1991. (Contributed / Southwest Water Authority)
A ribbon cutting ceremony commemorates the first day that Dickinson receives water from the Southwest Pipeline Project on Oct. 22, 1991. (Contributed / Southwest Water Authority)

The inaugural SWA delivery date to Dickinson was on Oct. 17, 1991, whereas the official turn-on and water service to the city was Oct. 22, 1991.

“It was a great day for the City of Dickinson and for all of the region,” Massad said.

Established by the North Dakota State Legislature in 1991, SWA manages, operates and maintains the Southwest Pipeline Project (SPP) — which entails more than 5,200 miles of pipeline and covers 15,000-square miles. The State of North Dakota owns the SPP and is administered through the North Dakota State Water Commission and now, Department of Water Resources, Massad added.

Not only does SWA service Dickinson and Stark County, but the entity also provides fresh, clean drinking water to Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Grant, Hettinger, Mercer, Morton, Oliver and Slope counties, as well as the city of Mandan. SWA operates three water treatment plants with two in Dickinson and the other located in Zap for Oliver, Mercer and North Dunn counties.

According to the SWA website, construction prevailed during the summer of 2020 despite the shutdowns of the coronavirus pandemic, including the Second David Buttes Reservoir and the Second Belfield Reservoir.

“Together these reservoirs will increase the SPP’s water storage capacity by 1.75 million gallons. Additional storage increases the capacity and redundancy for SWA to serve its customers and should help alleviate shortages during the peak water-usage season,” a statement from the SWA Progress page read.

SWA has a replacement fund, which currently has a balance of approximately $24 million, Massad said, explaining that they expect to spend that down to about $7 million this year and in 2022.

Though SWA currently sells about 1.9 billion gallons of water each year, Massad noted that number is expected to increase and the business is slated to sell approximately 2.4 billion gallons of water per year.

The ceremonial signing of House Bill B-76 that created the Southwest Water Authority shows former Gov. George Sinner, sitting center, on April, 12, 1991. (Contributed / Southwest Water Authority)
The ceremonial signing of House Bill B-76 that created the Southwest Water Authority shows former Gov. George Sinner, sitting center, on April, 12, 1991. (Contributed / Southwest Water Authority)

Since 1986, SWA has been under construction, Massad said, adding that about 620 clients are on its waiting list system-wide.

“So the authority and the Department of Water Resources is taking a three-pronged approach on how to address that as to increase our transmission capacity, do hydraulic improvements in certain areas so we can add customers as well as a new sign-up area. We just opened bids. The commission authorized approval of this contract. We’re paralleling pipeline in three directions out of Dickinson,” she said, adding that completion for that is projected for October 2022.

Massad added that SWA is conducting a sign-up campaign in Grant County and surrounding areas with already 400 signed up because it is “an underserved area.”

As part of the 30-year celebration, the Dickinson City Commission approved a proclamation recognizing water as essential to the quality of life and economic competitiveness. The proclamation also acknowledges the importance of educating the public about the value of water through the “Imagine a Day Without Water” campaign — which takes place annually on Oct. 21.