Trickle of hope in quest for water

One test well on the mountain shows potential

In areas of heavy development, particularly on mountain tops, water becomes liquid gold. Recently, the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District 363 board learned of a trickle of hope in a water rush that had proven continuously disappointing.

Finding water on the mountain has its challenges, partly due to the volcanic activity that spurred the formation of Lone Peak. In some aspects, seeking water is similar to drilling for oil, BSCWSD General Manager Ron Edwards once explained – it is an attempt to understand the depths of the earth with the best science, but in the end is still a gamble. Drilling and testing are the only ways to really know if the water source has the potential to go the distance, or if it is a lemon. As noted by BSCWSD Water Superintendent Jim Muscat, the problem that is spurring this recent exploration activity is that the two Cascade wells located in the Mountain Village that were drilled and earmarked decades ago by Lone Mountain Springs for a future municipal water supply were grossly overestimated in the volume they could produce.

Spurred by robust growth in the area the District began the process of bringing these dormant “future wells” into service several years ago. The District had Mark Cunnane, environmental consultant and engineer with Western Groundwater Services, LLC do a long term pump test on these wells to determine what the proper sustainable yield was.

“This was when it was learned the actual production volume they could sustain was a fraction of what was once thought,” Muscat said, so the District is aggressively working to add supply.

Last fall and this past summer the District again turned to Cunnane to identify locations for test wells on the Mountain for potential new production wells.There is a huge difference between creating a well for residential purposes and creating one as a municipal water source. This led the BSCWD board to Boyne property and to nine different potential well sites, subsequently named “Mountain Village Test Wells 2020”. These sights were selected by Cunnane from his extensive knowledge of the local geographical structure and also by results generated from a study completed by the Montana Bureau of Mines hydrogeologist James Rose.

Cunnane recently informed the board that out of the test wells drilled this summer, Test Well #7 has potential. He received a green light to perform a step rate test and a constant rate test, which is up to 72 hours of pumping followed by an equal time of recovery. It is anticipated he will share the results of those tests with BSCWSD board by January, which will help establish the next move in the quest for water.

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