Northwest Area Water Supply Project Approved After 15 Years of Litigation

Aug 30, 2017

The project can still be postponed by further appeals.

 The Northwest Area Water Supply project is a partially completed pipeline that will supply northwestern North Dakota with a steady supply of drinking water when it is completed.

When that will be is still uncertain. Blake Nicholson’s Associated Press article, reprinted at, reports that U.S. District Court Jude Rosemary Collyer ruled earlier this month that the environmental study conducted by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation in 2015 “satisfies federal law requirements.”

This makes it possible for construction of the unfinished sections of the pipeline to be completed. Unless the state of Missouri and the province of Manitoba file additional appeals.

What is noteworthy about this case is that litigation over the construction of the $244 million project has been ongoing for 15 years.

The Northwest Area Water Supply Project (NAWS) was “authorized by Congress in 1986.” Construction was halted in 2002 when Manitoba filed a suit “over concerns about the pipeline’s possible transfer of harmful bacteria or other agents from the Missouri River basin to the Hudson Bay Basin north of the border.”

Missouri filed suit in 2009 claiming the pipeline would endanger the water supply for Missouri residents and adversely affect “the state’s shipping and agricultural industries.”

Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource and fights between states and provinces over the use of the water in North America‘s great rivers have been increasing for a number of years. These legal battles are likely to become more frequent in the future as the continent becomes drier.

Protracted legal battles over the development of the nation’s natural resources and infrastructure prevent industry, including the construction industry, from making decisions about long-term planning that are required to keep construction companies and the economy vital.

The legal proceedings over the Northwest Area Water Supply Project have continued for fifteen years and their conclusion any time soon is uncertain.


Federal Judge Clears Way for Completion of $244M N.D. Water Project, Blake Nicholson, Associated Press, reprinted at, August 8, 2017.