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Rural Water getting bigger, better, more efficient

Progress in 2015 includes expansion and new users in northwest part of county, improvements to capacity system-wide, connection to Lewis and Clark on the south, and continued switch to automated meter reading
Lead Summary
Lori Sorenson

It’s been a busy summer for Rock County Rural Water, which is improving and expanding its system in the western and northwest part of the county and connecting to Lewis and Clark on the south end.
Both projects, which happened to come together at the same time, will make the system stronger and more viable in the future, according to Rural Water officials and engineers.
Northwest expansion
The northwest expansion plan includes adding more than 30 miles of pipeline in the northwest corner of Rock County in addition to improving water pressure and availability for the existing system.
The infrastructure improvements involve 20 miles of pipe in the central and southwest part of the county.
The new pipeline is in Martin Township, eastern Springwater Township and western Mound, Luverne and Clinton townships.
There are currently about 300 miles of Rural Water pipeline and 685 users countywide.
The infrastructure work will improve service for most Rural Water customers west of the Rock River.
The project calls for adding new pipe from 3 to 8 inches in the western part of the Rural Water system to increase carrying capacity.
A booster station will be put in at 95th Street and County Road 11, just south of I-90 to support the ground storage reservoir at County Road 6 (Beaver Creek blacktop) and County Road 5 (which enters Luverne by the bus garage).
New users encouraged to sign on by end of September
The project has so far garnered 25 new hookups, including four large water users with livestock operations.
According to Rural Water director Brent Hoffmann, the project will open the door for future growth.
“We’re oversizing the lines, and engineers have said, based on our past water data usage, they’re trying to accommodate for 50 years in the future,” he said.
“There’s a lot of big livestock operators up there and we’ve had conversations with them. There’s a balancing act where you try to make it big enough where you have the ability to accommodate expansions in the future, but still turn the water over in the pipe.”
Hoffmann said interested customers should sign on now to Rural Water, while groundwork is underway, but by the end of September upfront costs will increase for latecomers to the game.
“There will definitely be more upfront cost in the future than doing it now,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see how many people sign on after the pipeline goes by, and how many decide to put in livestock confinement operations later. I’m not a fortuneteller. I can’t predict the future.’
Hoffmann said work on the project started in June and crews are nearing the halfway mark to completion.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re going to be ahead of schedule,” he said. “Most of the large pipe will be in the ground by the end of next week, weather permitting. It’s going along really pretty good.”
USDA helps fund
$5 million expansion project
Winter Bros. Underground was awarded the contract for the $5 million project, which will be paid for in part by USDA grants and loans totaling $4.7 million.
The USDA loan of $2,448,000 will be paid back over 40 years at 2.8 percent interest. The USDA grant amounts to $2,246,000.
Rock County Rural Water’s contribution to the project is $364,000 plus payback on the loan.
To pay for the work, Rural Water increased the rates of large users to make up the difference in revenue needed to fund annual loan repayments.
Increasing the rate-per-gallon to $2.50 per thousand gallons (up 20 cents from the previous $2.30 per 1,000 gallons) used by the system’s 209 “commercial users” is estimated to generate the needed amount.
Residential users generally pay $2.75 per 1,000 gallons.
The Rural Water board also raised monthly rates on all users by $10 per hookup beginning Jan. 1, 2014 (from $17 to $27 per month for general users).
That move raises about $85,000 annually, which will also help fund the expansion loan repayment.
The Rock County Auditor’s Office holds nearly $2.8 million in savings for Rural Water.
That money was generated by assessments paid by current users to fund repairs and replacement for the current system.
Hoffmann said the northwest expansion project should be complete this fall.
“We should have water in the pipes by November,” he said. “We’ll do final work next spring, like some seeding and cleanup.”
South end connection to Lewis and Clark now in service
A three-mile stretch of 8- and 10-inch waterline south of Hills was completed in December 2014 to hook up Rock County Rural Water to the Lewis and Clark Water System.
The connection at 70th Avenue and 11th Street has initially served 10 to 12 hookups.
When all projects are completed, it has the ability to serve the entire west side of the Rural Water system, but it will primarily serve areas south of I-90 and west of County Road 6, including the city of Hills.
The cost of that project was $224,000 and was paid for out of existing Rural Water reserves.
The Lewis and Clark Rural Water System brings water from the Missouri River aquifer to more than 20 member communities and water systems in the tri-state area.
Sioux Falls was connected in 2012, Rock Rapids in 2013 and Luverne in 2015 (it will begin receiving water through the system in December). Some members, including Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water and the city of Worthington, are still waiting for federal funding in order to connect to the system.
Automated meter reading installation continues
In addition to these Rural Water improvements, workers are continuing to update the entire system with automated meter readers.
“This is something that will benefit all users on the system,” Hoffmann said.
The new meter system, which costs $140,000, will allow Rural Water staff to read meters remotely, instead of having customers read their own meters each month and track their own usage.
Hoffman said Rural Water was forced to update to the new system last year when its previous meter company stopped producing the old style meters.
The new meters will be readable from up to 13 miles away, and will be a useful tool in alerting Rural Water staff of usage spikes that could indicate leaks in the system.

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