Water Tank Replacement

The landscape in western North Dakota and eastern Montana has, over the last few years, been rapidly changing. Once the area was dominated by rolling hills and flat prairies, now it is ruled by oil rigs and natural gas flares. This change is due to a transition in the area’s economy, from agriculture to energy production. This change has brought many challenges and opportunities.

The small city of Ray, located in Williams County, North Dakota, experienced a significant population increase due to oil activity. The City’s population grew from 583 citizens in 2009 to 705 in 2012, as estimated by city officials.

For 2015, Kim Steffan, Ray’s City Auditor, estimated the population to be approximately 1,050 residents with expectations of gradual growth over the next few years.
Currently, the City of Ray’s water system consists of one pressure zone served by a 50,000-gallon elevated storage tank near the center of town. Although this small blue and white water tower has been the city’s most recognizable landmark and considered to be in good condition, it is no longer adequate to supply the city’s water needs.
Engineering studies indicated that water supply for the town hasn’t kept pace as the population has increased. Engineers with Interstate Engineering concluded that improved water storage was needed to support new homes and businesses, as well as provide adequate fire protection services.

By the end of 2016 the city will see an addition to their landscape in the form of a 500,000-gallon elevated water tank.

This new tank will not only change the look of the town but also satisfy the residents’ water use demands and provide the additional storage and pressure required to support the City’s growth.
Richard Liesener, Ray’s Public Works Commissioner, stated, “As a physical structure, this will be our largest project to date and the most visible to the general public.” Due to the size and scope of the project, it has presented some unique challenges for the engineers and the City to overcome. To help navigate the challenges efficiently, the city commission formed a Water Tank Committee, a group created to work closely with Interstate Engineering on the Water Tower Project.

The first challenge was to find a suitable location for the tank. It had to provide the most favorable environmental, technical and political requirements. In 2014, the Water Tank Committee identified a location a half a mile north of town that met their requirements and had a willing landowner.

Once the location was selected, the challenge for Interstate Engineering’s project manager Dean Peterson was to acquire signatures on easement documents from landowners to perform construction work in the planned area.

“The discussions with landowners around the tank site were quick and smooth.” Peterson pointed out.

“However, acquisition of land for the transmission main to the new tank was complicated by the fact that the landowners consisted of three siblings, each living in three different states.” Without the required permission, the project could not move forward. According to Peterson, “A great deal of communication and coordination was needed to acquire all the signatures.”
During the design phase, several water tower options were presented to the committee. “We presented three different tank styles,” noted Peterson, “In the end, the committee chose to go with a composite welded steel tank based on several factors including less paint maintenance than spheroid, more satisfaction history than the composite glass-fused-to-steel, and aesthetic preferences.”

The first phase of the project began in June 2015, which included the in-town portion of the new transmission main, sanitary and storm sewer improvements, as well as five blocks of a reconstructed street. Phase II, which was bid in September 2015, included the elevated storage portion of the project. The third phase includes two parallel 12-inch diameter mains. One main will fill the tank and the other will provide water to the City of Ray. The third phase will be completed in 2016. The new tank is expected to be online and operational by early spring 2017.

This project incorporates many engineering elements, all of which must work together for a successful project outcome.
These elements include water, sewer, geotechnical, topo survey, legal survey, environmental, streets, and drainage. Substantial planning and coordination is required with entities such as R&T Water Supply Association, Western Area Water Supply Authority, existing utility operators, landowners, and the general public. What we can learn is that successful projects, no matter how challenging can be achieved through good communication, cooperation, and coordination.

In the end, residents will have access to clean water, even as the population increases. City officials can be safe in the knowledge that their citizens, businesses, and fire department will have the water requirements needed for future growth.