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It's not the first oil boom to hit North Dakota, but it's undoubtedly the biggest. North Dakota has quickly become one of the largest oil-producing states in the country. The Bakken has brought thousands of people to North Dakota and billions of dollars in state revenue. But it's also brought its share of headaches for those living in oil country. Home construction can't keep up with the rapid growth in population. Crimes, accidents and arrests are at an all-time high in western North Dakota. Small cities that were once off the grid are making national headlines as they face challenges they've never had to deal with before.
Clip: Bakken Moves Faster than Infrastructure
Oil companies are bulldozing their way through western North Dakota as fast as they're able. But there are limits. Many areas are still without the necessary infrastructure.
Water, sewer and electricity are the major improvements needed before commercial developments can come about. But many cities are already at capacity and are straining to keep up.
No more hookups. That's what R&T Water Supply in Ray and Tioga is telling large commercial users. The company is working on a two-million gallon per day upgrade but that still won't be enough to meet the growing demand.
"It's a huge issue because you find all these little communities that are growing and they don't have enough water, whether it be a Ray, Watford City, even in Williston. We need a lot of water just for ourselves, and the oil industry needs a lot of water," said Ward Koeser, mayor of Williston.
That's why R&T along with other water providers in western North Dakota have teamed up to create the Western Area Water Supply. The WAWS project will upgrade the Williston Water Treatment Plant and pump water to residents in the surrounding counties of Williams, McKenzie and Divide.
The project costs $150-million, but the board plans on paying for it by selling water to the oil industry.
"This is a project that's been well engineered, well designed, with input from the state," said Gene Veeder, director of McKenzie Job Development.
But water isn't the only thing lacking in oil country. Williston and Ray are just some of the communities running out of space in its city lagoons to process all of the waste.
Ray is looking at an $8-million upgrade, while Williston is looking at a $50-million upgrade.
"It's a huge need. Without trying to put some curb on the growth and the housing, we need to be able to do this," said Monte Meiers, director of Williston Public Works.
And the last piece of the puzzle is electricity. McKenzie Electric Cooperative had to almost double its electric capacity over the last few years to service the man camps and oil rigs.
With virtually no infrastructure in the counties, it's like starting from square one.
"People will come in with nothing. They'll ask for power, and then they'll just keep growing and building with no future plans, no initial plans. And that's the thing that we struggle with- going back and doing the job twice, three times. That's hard," said John Skurupey, CEO and general manager of McKenzie Electric Cooperative.
As more of these systems max out, the pace of oil development will be forced to slow down.