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MU Extension Helps Northwest Missouri Plan for Regional Water Transmission System

March 26, 2009

Story Contact:  Jeffrey Beeson, 573-882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - As the country prepares for April's showers and summer's drought, University of Missouri Extension specialists are helping 12 counties in northwest Missouri guarantee clean water for residences no matter what Mother Nature may bring. The Water Partnership for Northwest Missouri (WPNWMO), an organization that was brought together to address the drinking water needs of northwest Missouri, announced a new regional water transmission grid and has formed the Great Northwest Wholesale Water Commission (GNWWC) to manage the project.

"Drinking water in northwest Missouri is a substantial challenge," said Tye Parson, director of the Northwest Missouri Regional Council of Governments and co-chair of the Water Partnership. "Not only do we have surface water systems that are susceptible to drought, but we also see many towns with shallow groundwater wells that are threatened by continually decreasing underground water levels. The Water Partnership was formed to examine the ways that a regional approach could be used to guarantee a source of safe, abundant drinking water for the entire region."

 Since 2004, WPNWMO has worked with county officials and customers to introduce a new regional water transmission grid that would provide consistent, safe and clean water to the entire region. The new grid will connect 12 counties in the area by water pipes, allowing for a looped water supply to be shared by each county. If a county had to cut off water supply due to a drought, flood or contamination, officials could reroute water from another area. In addition, industries like agricultural and life-science production, which require a large volume of quality water, might also be more likely to settle in the area.

 "When the partnership was first formed, we knew that it would be important to get the 12 county leaders and 83 water system representatives to work together," said Bev Maltsberger, MU Extension's community development specialist. "Over the last four years MU Extension has provided training and support for the Water Partnership, providing a stable voice and someone the members knew they could turn to for help."

After examining 39 water systems in the region, WPNWMO found that only 11 had an estimated lifespan of 15 years or more, and many have already outlived their useful life, which could mean costly repairs or having to purchase treated water from other sources. With the new grid system, counties will have the option to join GNWWC, which is working with the state and national governments to establish funding for the grid that is to be built in five phases.

"We tend to take it for granted that when we turn on the tap there will be water; that's not always so," said Jerry Baker, MU Extension's community development specialist. "We hope this will be a pilot project for Missouri and can be used throughout the state and nation to help the country's aging water plants."

The WPNWMO is made of county representatives from Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Harrison, Holt, Nodaway and Worth Counties as well as a representative from each of the three planning commissions. Funding and technical assistance for the partnership was provided by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources drinking water program.