Level 2 study gives flowing results

Bulletin photo by Floyd Whiting

As Buffalo’s only municipal water source, Tie Hack holds plenty of water to serve the city’s needs far into the future. However, in an attempt to mitigate consequences of a potential catastrophic event at the reservoir, Buffalo is developing an alternative water source.

With only a few weeks remaining to drill exploratory wells, Buffalo Public Works Director Les Hook hopes construction will begin early in the next year as Buffalo takes one more step toward a secondary water source.

Tie Hack Reservoir isn’t at risk of running out of water for Buffalo, but a catastrophic event that affects the reservoir or the creek at the foot of the dam could stress the city’s supply, and currently no other municipal water supply exists, Hook said.

To mitigate this, the city applied to the Wyoming Water Development Commission in August 2016 to begin a search for a secondary municipal water source. The project was included in an omnibus water bill for planning up to Level 2. The Wyoming Legislature approved the $180,000 project in 2017.

Last February, the design and construction phase of the project was approved by the Legislature as part of an omnibus water bill. Gov. Mark Gordon signed the law Feb. 18.

The Buffalo City Council is in negations with Western Water Consultants to enter into the Level 3 portion of the Buffalo master plan, while the Public Works Department finishes the Level 2 study.

The City Council is reviewing the contract and will discuss its findings and opinions in September.    

Once the Level 2 study is finished and a contract is reached, Buffalo will begin Level 3 planning and construction. Engineers will design permanent housing for producing wells and a pipeline-gathering system to take the water to the water treatment plant, Hook said.

“We’re going to get that contract for the engineering,” Hook said. “The engineering will search out a drilling company to come in and drill more wells.”

The study entered Level 2 in mid-February. Drilling began southwest of the water treatment plant to evaluate key locations within the city to explore for a secondary source. Seven holes were drilled. Of those, Hook said, two were compromised when the drill casing twisted apart and another two were unable to get a good flow test. One hole failed to produce satisfactory drawdown levels. But two holes produced enough water to possibly become candidates to supply the city. Because of this, Hook said he requested a continuation of the Level 2 study to further explore the area.

The two flowing wells Hook and the drill team struck had such a dramatic return on “drawdown,” Hook said, that they could not drop the levels in the well with the pumps they were using.

Drawdown is the drop in the level of water in a well when water is being pumped out.

“The two that we want to hook onto now, they didn’t have a big enough pump to draw them down at all – none, zero,” Hook said. “There are two that we don’t have a good flow test on, but the other two, I would like to develop.”  

Hook and the drill team from WWC are going to continue drilling test wells searching for at least one more well that can produce the 175-gallons-per-minute level.

“If we could get one more like the two we have, that would be really perfect,” Hook said. “This well field is not pulling water from the creek. It’s classified as under the influence of surface water, because they’re so shallow. But the water has a whole different chemistry than the creek water.”

According to Hook, Buffalo currently uses 2,100 gallons of water per minute in the summer months. Hook feels that if the secondary water wells can produce 700 to 1,000 gallons per minute, the city would have enough water to get through a catastrophic event in the creek below Tie Hack.

“Everybody would have water,” Hook said. “But we would not irrigate.”

The Legislature and the governor approved a $1.2 million Wyoming Water Development Commission grant at the beginning of this year to fund the study and Level 3 engineering.

The grant is funding 67% of a $1.8 million project that has studied, developed and will construct wells as a secondary water source for Buffalo. The city will match approximately $600,000, from the water fund or general fund.

Hook said that WWC Engineering was selected to survey and engineer the project. To accomplish this, WWC has been using a three-part Buffalo master plan.

The Level 1 study had three goals: to create a complete hydraulic model of the city’s potable water system; to explore regionalization of the city’s water system to supply water to areas outside of the incorporated limits; and to develop a master plan for Buffalo, which outlined operation and maintenance procedures, evaluated the existing water system and provided financing analysis and options, according to Hook.

Once finished, the water treatment will mix both water sources together and utilize both sources.

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