The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 30, 2014

Pipes lengthen, water costs rise in southwest Minn.

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The company eventually abandoned its wells and began drawing water instead from the river. The ethanol company also paid for new wells or other repairs for several residents of the area.

Marshall builds lengthy straw

Extra spending linked to scarce water supplies happens often in southwest Minnesota. And with spot shortages of groundwater supplies occurring in other parts of Minnesota, those sorts of additional expenses seem likely to spread as well. Almost always, those extra costs are passed on to water customers.

Earlier this month, a backhoe starting tearing into the soil at the construction site of a major water project for Marshall, dozens of lengths of heavy pipe dotting the ground nearby.

At his downtown office, Marshall Municipal Utilities General Manager Brad Roos said the city is spending more than $13 million to build a very long water pipeline. It will stretch a length equal to the distance from downtown Minneapolis to the Wisconsin border.

“Twenty-seven miles is the length of the pipe that we need to construct,” Roos said. “And that’s the closest, adequate water supply that we found during the last 17 years of searching.”

The city sells over a billion gallons of water a year to its residential and business customers, and the new pipeline will cost about $1,000 per resident.

“The good news is, we found water, and we’re going to be able to harvest it and bring it to the community.” Roos said. “The bad news is it’s not going to be done for free. There’s going to have to be rate increases.”

The increases will eventually raise water bills by about one quarter. Marshall residents will pay some of the highest costs in the state, 50 percent more than most St. Paul homeowners, for example, and about triple the rate in Rochester.

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