The Platte Alliance Water Supply (PAWS) project has been a long time in the works, but is inching closer to becoming a reality.
Dave Schaff of engineering firm M.C. Schaff and Associates gave an update to the Scottsbluff City Council Monday night. The project will bring multiple communities in the region together to essentially provide a wholesale water supply to help alleviate water quality issues and reduce costs associated with water supply. Currently in Nebraska, Scottsbluff, Henry, Morrill, Lyman, Mitchell, Bayard and Bridgeport are at least considering participation in the project. Minatare buys its water from Scottsbluff and has indicated it will follow what Scottsbluff does. Terrytown is currently tied with Gering for water, but has indicated it would look to change its water supply through the PAWS project.
“The intent of the PAWS project is to provide a long-term drinking water quality source at an affordable rate over time,” Schaff said. “It really is, more or less, regionalization for multiple communities to provide a long-term solution for drinking water.”
The project has been in the works for around 15 years, and the second phase is being finished up. Schaff said he is anxious to see all the work that’s gone into the project come to fruition.
Two reports have been completed. One finished in 2013 through the Bureau of Reclamation was completely funded by that agency. The second was funded evenly by the Wyoming Water Development Commission and the City of Scottsbluff and was completed in 2019. As part of the project, governance groups have been established for the communities involved.
The estimated project cost is $275 million for capital costs with an anticipated two-thirds of that paid by grants. The rest would be through loans. That expense would make the average water usage rate $1.34 per 1,000 gallons and a $20.73 equipment tap fee. Schaff said that would bring the costs well within the range of similar projects. Once a suitable financial package is arranged, the project will move into the design phase.
“It’s not a new concept, so I think it’s important to realize there are other systems that are operational, and they’re working with proven success,” Schaff said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the region to jump on board and make a long-term investment on a great project.”
Schaff said one benefit is that surface water would be used for the supply rather than ground water.
“We would be using surface water and doing a more conventional treatment process and not doing more of the more technical aspects that are required for groundwater that has multiple contaminants, such as arsenic, uranium, nitrates and those issues that come along with ground water versus the surface water approach,” he said.
Each community would continue to have its own…