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The source water supply for the Minneapolis Water Works is the Mississippi River at Fridley. Water is pumped from just below where Interstate 694 crosses the river. After treatment and purification, the water is pumped to customers in:
Mississippi River water is naturally much softer than ground water, and it is further softened during treatment at the Minneapolis Water Works treatment plant. This benefit saves water users the expense of purchasing and maintaining a home softening system. The Joint Water Commission's suburban neighbors do not use this source of water. Instead, they rely on groundwater sources that are pumped, disinfected with chlorine, and delivered to customers.
Over the years, efforts have been made to protect the Mississippi River as a reliable source of water. It drains such a large watershed of northern and central Minnesota that the effects of localized droughts are not often felt at the intake. However, the Mississippi River is vulnerable to contamination from human and natural sources. Increasing upstream uses and constant runoff from agricultural lands have diminished its quality over the years. Increasing human activity along its banks also increases the possibility of a hazardous chemical spill. The City of Minneapolis has been diligent in trying to protect its Mississippi River source. However, no backup supply is available should an accident happen.
The river water is treated at the Fridley Water Filtration Plant or the Columbia Heights Ultrafiltration Facility (owned and operated by the City of Minneapolis). The quality of the river water is such that it makes it relatively easy to treat. The treatment process removes cloudiness, or turbidity, from the water by filtering it through large beds of sand, gravel, and carbon. The water is softened with lime and then disinfected with chlorine before delivery to customers. The City of Minneapolis' treatment systems are operated in accordance with standard utility practices, and the treated water quality meets all current state and Federal regulations. The treated water is pumped through large diameter pipelines to the Joint Water Commission's storage reservoirs located in Crystal and Golden Valley.
The three Joint Water Commission (JWC) Cities use about 7 million gallons each day. Water demands of JWC customers have been relatively constant over the past 10 years. During the day, the amount of water used by residences and businesses fluctuates hour by hour. The JWC water storage reservoirs are big enough to meet each day's needs, keeping the water flowing through the pipelines at an adequate pressure to meet customer needs. Water demands in the summer increase dramatically (often up to 17 million gallons each day) when residences and businesses sprinkle their lawns. The most customers have used in a single day was 20 million gallons. Adequate supplies must also be available to provide water to hydrants in the event of a fire.
The JWC operates and maintains reservoirs capable of storing 28 million gallons. Operators usually fill these reservoirs at night to be ready for another day of demands from customers.
Each Joint Water Commission (JWC) household receives a utility bill from its City's finance department. The water bill reflects three different costs: