ND Water Fact-finding Mission

Talking about the Devils Lake storm sewer pump
Talking about the Devils Lake storm sewer pump

Consul & Principal Officer Chris Gunning on his recent visit to North Dakota:

I am just back from three days in North Dakota to review the issues surrounding water – mostly to do with access, quality, and flooding (but not only that). The visit was extremely busy and involved us making a circuitous route from Bismarck all the way to the small town of Neche. The trip was useful and informative, and underscored the complicated nature of water issues (not only in this part of the world, but pretty much everywhere). As I learned, communities could be struggling with too much water in general, but not enough potable water at the same time. This, of course, creates a bit of a perception paradox, where it appears at first glance that an area with considerable reserves of water shouldn’t need to find new sources – but that’s not always the case – especially in terms of useable (ie. not contaminated) water.

Members of North Dakota’s Senate and Congressional offices as well as a representative of the Canadian Federal Government were also along for the ride. The various backgrounds of the attendees led to a lot of positive discussion, from both a technical and policy standpoint. I learned a lot. To my colleagues’ credit, they didn’t shy from asking hard questions about the progress of projects like Devil’s Lake, the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) project, and the Red River Valley Water Supply Project. Talking about the big projects was important, but I found our time in the smaller communities like Towner and Neche just as insightful… and considerably more personal.

What did I take away with from the trip? Well, I want to do what I can to facilitate communication between the various actors on either side of the border, but also (and more importantly) to foster understanding. I think too often we look upon open lines of communication as the accomplishment of a lot of work, and forget that the lines of communication are really only there to facilitate solutions. My job is to help put the right people together to encourage solutions, not just communication.

I want to thank the Office of Governor Dalrymple and the ND State Water Commission for their patience with my questions.