New restrictions that limit lawn watering to one day per week rather than every other day came into effect in Fargo, Moorhead and Dilworth earlier this week.
West Fargo, which previously adopted the same restrictions as Fargo, said it is reviewing its water contract with Fargo to determine the requirements, and therefore cannot confirm any action at this time.
In light of the worsening drought, the Forum recently requested data from Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead on their biggest water users.
When asked, West Fargo provided a list of its top ten users, while Fargo provided a list of the top 200 users based on the largest water meter readings, from which the Forum has compiled a list of the top 10 users.
Moorhead Public Service, a utility provider for Moorhead and Dilworth, has refused multiple requests to provide data on water users, citing a Minnesota law that allows electricity customer data to be kept private. Moorhead Public Service claims that its customers’ water data is aggregated with customer electrical data, so they will not provide any data. The Forum will challenge this interpretation with the state authorities.
The biggest users of water in the metro are schools and universities, parks, hospitals, elderly care facilities, large apartment complexes, and food processors, who together use dozens of million gallons of water per month.
However, their consumption is not the cause of the peak in water demand this summer.
Fargo and Moorhead implemented new watering restrictions on August 23, 2021 that limit outdoor watering to one day per week. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Troy Hall, director of water services for Fargo, said the push came from residents watering established lawns.
Fargo implemented odd-numbered watering restrictions on July 27, and West Fargo followed a week later, aiming for a 5-10% reduction in water use.
This target was not met.
After dropping 13% in the first week, water use was only 3% lower than use before the restrictions went into effect, Hall said.
The recent rains briefly caused the river’s flow to rise, but it quickly dropped off, he said.
The Moorhead Civil Service has said Moorhead and Dilworth have sufficient water supplies to meet demand at the moment, as does Fargo, but that may only be short-term assurance.
“I’m more concerned with where we might be in a few months without rain,” Fargo’s Hall said.
Fargo’s two biggest water users by far are its neighbor to the west and another water supplier.
West Fargo has been receiving water from Fargo since 2016; the Kindred, North Dakota-based Cass Rural Water District obtains water from Fargo and West Fargo, in addition to its primary groundwater source.
After that, North Dakota State University, Fargo Parks, and Sanford Health are the third, fourth, and fifth largest users of water.
Fargo Public Schools, Cass Clay Creamery, Custom Express Car Wash, Essentia Health, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center round out the top 10.
Apartments L46 are viewed on Monday August 2, 2021 at 2915 Bluestem Dr., Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
In West Fargo, after Cass Rural Water, West Fargo Public Schools, Latitude 46 Apartments, Cargill and Strata Corporation rank in the top five.
Eventide Sheyenne Crossings, Brookwood Estates, Weisgram Metal Fab, Inc., Holiday Station Stores and Coborn’s / Cash Wise round out the top ten.
NDSU, with its large campus and multiple athletic fields to maintain, perhaps comes as no surprise as a heavy user.
The university paid $ 74,378 for the 17.7 million gallons of water used in July alone, according to a Forum analysis of the list provided by the City of Fargo.
The North Dakota State University administrative building can be seen on Monday, August 2, 2021 at the Fargo campus. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Michael Ellingson, director of facilities management, said the NDSU will continue to monitor the city’s watering restrictions.
“A drier landscape will inevitably result, but luckily there are factors that will mitigate the impact given the time of year,” Ellingson said.
Those factors, he said, are cooler temperatures, less intense sunlight and more morning dew.
For some of the largest users, water is the focal point of their operations and the services they provide.
In the case of Fargo Parks, consider swimming pools, sports complexes, and golf courses that need to be maintained.
The district paid $ 50,590 for 14.77 million gallons of water in July, according to the Forum’s analysis.
Dave Bietz, park manager for the Fargo Park District, said they plan to follow the new watering restrictions.
Most of its golf courses use water pumped directly from the Red River.
Bietz said the park district will work with the city to see if it can continue to water the tees and greens in Prairiewood, as it is the only route that carries its water through the municipal system.
“We just can’t afford to leave them dormant, otherwise it would be a bigger expense in the long run,” he said before the latest restrictions took effect.
The park district is also trying to switch more of its landscaped annual flower beds to perennials that require less watering.
Mickelson Field in North Fargo. Chris Flynn / The Forum
They feature annual flowers in some areas for a “wow factor,” he said, including the entrance to Lindenwood Park in South Fargo, but find that native flowers can have a similar impact.
Water is also crucial for Cargill’s operations in West Fargo, which used 4.31 million gallons from late June to late July.
The Cargill plant is seen on Monday August 2, 2021 at 250 7th Ave. NE, West Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Most of its water use is for the operation of steam boilers and cooling towers.
“This equipment is essential to our operations and used to produce food and feed products, including sunflower oil and flour as well as vegetable canola oil and flour,” according to a statement from Cargill.
The company added that it is always looking for ways to improve its efficiency.
For other large users, water is crucial but not necessarily central to the services they provide.
The fifth largest water user in Fargo in July was Sanford Health, which operates several hospitals, clinics and other facilities.
Sanford paid $ 44,036 for 10.21 million gallons of water, according to the Forum’s analysis.
Michael Erickson, executive director of facilities, said the Sanford Health buildings occupy three million square feet in the Fargo metro.
The biggest use of water is for the cooling systems needed to care for patients and keep facilities cool, he said.
“Large amounts of water are also needed for sterile processing, which properly cleans and disinfects the equipment and tools used during surgery,” Erickson said.
The Sanford Medical Center Fargo is seen on Monday August 2, 2021 at 5225 23rd Ave. S. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Its newest facility, the Sanford Medical Center Fargo at 5225 23rd Ave. S., spans over a million square feet alone and was built with low flow technology, setting the industry standard for energy and water efficiency, he said. declared.
Water-saving technology is also in place at West Fargo public schools in the form of faucets, toilets and urinals in all new construction or renovations to older buildings, said Jeff Goebel, director of buildings and land.
He said schools will adhere to updated watering restrictions and recent rains have helped keep sports fields ready for the fall season.
Schools in West Fargo used 10.86 million gallons of water from the end of June to the end of July. Heavy irrigation is not sustainable, he said, for a long time.
“Our best strategy in the future will be to reduce the number of hours per week of natural grass pitches use and to maximize the use of our artificial turf pitches,” said Goebel.
At Eventide Sheyenne Crossings in West Fargo, 3.02 million gallons of water were used between late June and late July.
Most of that was spent on laundry, dishes, bathing and showering services, executive director Brady Johnsrud said.
These activities must continue for adequate care of people in its 103 apartments for the elderly, its specialized care center with 64 beds and its memory unit with 24 beds, he said.
But when it comes to watering lawns, the facility follows restrictions.
“I hope we can ride the rest of the summer. We’re not going to look as green as we want it to be, ”Johnsrud said.
The main thing in this time of drought is to have stability in the water supply.
Fargo keeps its water towers at least 50 percent full for emergency use, Hall said.
If people use more water than the city can produce, the system is at risk of depressurizing.
“Then the water is cut off for just about everyone,” he said, until the city is able to supply it again.
If supplies can be maintained until Labor Day, Hall said, water demands are expected to start to decline.
This graph represents the 10 largest water users in Fargo and West Fargo for July 2021 or end of June-end of July 2021. Troy Becker / The Forum