Montana Artesian Water is currently engaged in two separate regulatory processes: The first is to obtain a water right, and the second is to obtain a permit to discharge water from our bottling facility. Both are discussed in detail below.
Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) Water Right Application
In accordance with the Water Use Act that governs Montana’s water rights, we have drilled a well and completed testing of the well for water quality, quantity and impact to neighboring wells.
The well taps into the deep water aquifer at a depth of over 220 feet. The well can safely draw approximately 450 gallons per minute, which equates to a maximum of 715 acre feet per year, or the equivalent of what a single center-pivot irrigator uses in a year on an alfalfa field.
As is customary for any new water right application, we have submitted an application to DNRC to secure water rights in at a level the well tests indicated were appropriate. The permitting process under the Water Use Act requires that new (after June 30, 1973) private well owners provide the following evidence:
- the physical availability of water at the point of diversion during the requested period of diversion;
- the legal demands (pre-existing rights) on the source;
- the effects of the proposed use on existing water rights;
- an analysis of the effects of existing water rights on the water supply within the source;
- an explanation of how the requested flow rate and volume was determined and that the amounts are the amounts necessary for the beneficial use.
Beneficial use is a use of water for the benefit of the appropriator, other persons, or the public, including but not limited to domestic, stock, irrigation, lawn and garden, mining, municipal, industrial, commercial, power, agricultural spraying, fisheries, wildlife, recreation, and aquifer storage and recovery.
DNRC evaluated our application based on the potential impact of our project on the aquifer and neighboring wells. As part of our application, we have guaranteed that prior appropriators will be protected by stipulating that we will reduce or halt production in the event of an adverse effect.
DNRC has issued a Preliminary Determination to Grant Permit, finding that the proposal meets all of the above criteria – based on scientific analysis of the criteria explicitly outlined in statute. A hearing on this preliminary determination will be held later this summer.
It should be noted that securing a water right does not mean that right will be fully exercised, and they rarely are. Our use of water will be determined by market demand as well as by an additional permitting process required by DEQ, as outlined below.
Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Water Discharge Permit
In 1974, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delegated authority to Montana to administer the requirements of the Clean Water Act, which was adopted to:
- conserve water by protecting, maintaining, and improving the quality and potability of water for public water supplies, wildlife, fish and aquatic life, agriculture, industry, recreation, and other beneficial uses;
- provide a comprehensive program for the prevention, abatement, and control of water pollution;
- balance the inalienable rights to pursue life’s basic necessities and possess and use property in lawful ways with the policy of preventing, abating, and controlling water pollution in implementing a water pollution program.
Thus, the state promotes the protection of water quality, while also accommodating human uses, through laws that guide our water-related activities.
Because our bottling process includes a rinsing stage, we will need to discharge water from our facility. This rinse-water discharge requires a permit from the DEQ. The discharge will consist of water used to rinse the pre-formed bottles delivered to our facility before they are filled and packaged. The rinse water will be filtered and discharged cleaner than it was when we withdrew it from the ground.
We filed an application for a water discharge permit with DEQ based on the anticipated amount of rinse water that would need to be discharged from the facility (approximately five gallons per minute) based on a total draw of 30 gallons per minute. While not currently part of our design, additional discharge in the amount of 60 gallons per minute would be permitted for domestic use as well as geothermal heating during colder winter months, if we chose to pursue that use in the future.
DEQ is analyzing the potential impacts from this discharge and will deny, approve or condition the permit based on their independent analysis of our project.
Any expansion in the use of water above this amount would require additional analysis and permitting from the Montana DEQ.