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Published January 03 2010

Forum editorial: Share the water, and its costs

West Fargo and Fargo should team up to provide their residents with the best water possible at the most reasonable price.

Officials from both cities will begin serious talks this month on how to solve West Fargo’s water woes while tackling a common challenge of adequately treating more sulfates in the Sheyenne River in the future.

A joint water solution could greatly benefit both cities.

The fast-growing city to the west needs to boost its water quality and capacity in fairly short order.

West Fargo’s water is not up to snuff for a city its size: The well water from a depleting aquifer often stinks, corrodes pipes and water heaters, and stains toilets and sinks.

The city’s been talking internally about a long-term solution to these problems for a long time but, until recently, hasn’t seemed committed to solving them.

Now, a consultant is studying what it will take to finally address the issues. The report, with cost estimates for building a new West Fargo water treatment plant, is due back this month. Early estimates put a new treatment plant as high as $60 million.

The report will help West Fargo officials determine if building a new water treatment plant is the best plan and how much taxpayers will have to cough up to get it done. City leaders have said they may ask voters this June for a 1 percent sales tax that would raise about

$2 million a year for better water.

Meanwhile, Fargo officials say their city’s water treatment plant has the capacity to treat West Fargo’s water and could easily be connected. Fargo’s plant, which pulls water from the Red and Sheyenne rivers, treats 22 million gallons a day during peak times. It has the ability to treat 30 million gallons a day right now and could be expanded to treat as much as

45 million gallons.

But both cities face another looming obstacle: Devils Lake water, high in sulfates, is draining into the Sheyenne River, a current water source for Fargo and possible future source for West Fargo. Sulfates are a natural laxative. Treating sulfates adequately will cost both communities a lot more in the long run.

For that reason, and to provide the best possible water for residents of both cities, the two communities should team up, share costs and share water. Fargo should give West Fargo a fair price for buying the water, and West Fargo should not let jurisdictional lines get in the way of a smart deal for something as essential as good, clean water.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.