BSCWSD water superintendent Jim Muscat explains to the board why it is important to find water on the mountain. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Water for the mountain and meadow

Water and sewer board approves exploratory drilling for water
With water, treatment and efficiency at play, it is a “complex, dynamic issue” the board will need to hash-out, Jim Muscat said, but those infrastructure discussions can come later. “The first thing we’ve got to do is find water,” he said.

The Big Sky County Water and Sewer District (BSCWSD) board discussed the Mountain View Well Exploration at the July 16 board meeting. With underperforming Wells 5 and 6 and anticipated growth, in addition to strains on infrastructure from the high pressure required to pump up the mountain – BSCWSD staff outlined a need for exploration and action. 

“Water is an extremely big issue,” BSCWSD water superintendent Jim Muscat said. 

He explained that two separate systems on the mountain – the Cascade and the original – had to be linked. The Cascade development has been, in essence, borrowing water from the original Mountain Village system. Muscat explained that initially the cause of this was because the water did not taste good, but a recent study of the wells showed that they are not producing the volume of water necessary to serve the Cascade development – an area that is anticipated to grow rapidly. This, in addition to increased growth and demand from the resort, means that strain needs to be removed from the original Mountain Village system. 

The idea – if water is found – is to split the system. 

Pumping from the Mountain Village to the Cascade development is inefficient. “We need that system to work efficiently,” board member Brian Wheeler said, noting he has been stressing this issue for the past five years. “This feels somewhat proactive.” 

Board member Peter Manka said finding additional water sources would improve the layout of the mountain zone and “could resolve a lot of issues that we have up there.” 

Mark Cunnane with Western Groundwater Services was tasked with studying the geology in Mountain Village for a new water supply to the Upper Pressure Zone – Cascade Sub-station. 

“We have identified three locations for potential well exploration,” BSCWSD general manager, Ron Edwards said. 

Two sites are located on Middle Fork Anticline and one site is at the Cascade tank. 

The board owns the property where the tank sits but will need access to the other sites, one of which is owned by Big Sky Resort and the other owned by a private landowner. 

Muscat emphasized the need for this exploration was necessary due to the underperformance of previously drilled Wells 5 and 6. 

“There is a lot of demand coming. We have to take pressure off of the mountain system,” Muscat said. 

Cunnane explained the geology behind the site selection: further north of the selected sites, it will be required to drill deeper and deeper and further south, the aquifer ends. This results in a linear path and limited potential locations.  

“We can confirm access,” Wheeler, who works for Big Sky Resort said. “If you want to go in there, let’s get this thing figured out.” He noted in later conversation that the water issue needs to be addressed strategically. 

“We have to be the leaders on this water issue,” he said. 

Muscat said he does not want to wait another summer to do the test well. 

BSCWSD board vice president Jim Reeves moved to “authorize the general manager to get a test well up at the Cascade Tank and that we negotiate a short-term access deal with Boyne to drill a test well on the Boyne property.” 

Mike DuCuennois seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. 

Manka encouraged the exploration of a few other sites by next summer which will address water demand from pending growth in the meadow and suggested setting the wheels in motion to proceed in exploratory drilling with any leftover budget and secondary to the drilling taking place up the mountain. 

With water, treatment and efficiency at play, it is a “complex, dynamic issue” the board will need to hash-out, Muscat said, but those infrastructure discussions can come later. 

“The first thing we’ve got to do is find water,” he said.

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