As the need for snowmaking rises, resorts look to wastewater

The Watershed Stewardship Plan took a hard look at the potential reuse of wastewater for snowmaking, a process not currently being done in Montana. Big Sky Resort currently uses 100 million gallons of fresh water to make snow each season, and the study estimates it could use as much as 300 million gallons of wastewater effluent. In addition, the Yellowstone Club could potentially utilize up to 40 million gallons of wastewater effluent on its expanding Eglise Ridge terrain.

Rich Chandler, environmental manager for the Yellowstone Club, spoke of the ever-increasing need for snowmaking. 

“Through time, it’s been realized that climate change is in fact real,” Chandler said. “We might have a good year, like Mike (Richter) pointed out, 2011 I think was a good year, followed by 2012, which was an incredibly poor year. The trend is drier and warmer. And it’s creating more of a reliance on snowmaking. I don’t think this is local. We see it within all the snowmaking companies. They’re expanding across the United States and capturing a footprint that didn’t exist 10 years ago.”

Kevin Germain, vice president of planning and development for Lone Mountain Land Company, said using wastewater effluent to make snow is “an elegant solution,” since as much as 72 percent of the melt water flows back into the system and recharges groundwater supplies. 

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