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Water is a muddy subject in Abbotsford

By Ann Knoedler

Sometimes communities have too much water to live safely, comfortably and prosperous. Witness all of the flooding that occurs every spring.

And then there’s the city of Abbotsford, in Clark County. They’ve had to issue emergency conservation measures to protect the water they have. Residents are forbidden to wash their cars, water their gardens and use water for any other outdoor activity.

This is a small farm community (population about 2,000). But it has an expanding industrial base, such as Abbyland Foods and Michael Foods, that is thirsty for more water than the current city aquifers are capable of providing.

This is a good thing — the growth and development part, that is. And for most communities providing the additional water wouldn’t cause many sleepless nights. But Abbotsford has suffered with chronic water supply issues for years. It has to do with the geology of the earth beneath their feet –- a shallow layer of clay over a granite bedrock formation.

If you check out their city Web site you’ll find much of it delegated to water education, FAQs regarding their water situation, history of the search for water, etc. It’s quite an obsession; and understandably so. Over the last 20 years they’ve drilled over 200 test wells looking for a new and reliable water source. This finally proved fruitful, and with the help of their engineering consultant, Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc., they have decided to solve their immediate problem by building a well field consisting of about 12 wells, a water treatment plant, three pumphouses, and connecting water main.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is reviewing the proposal now, but the city is anticipating beginning construction this summer.

But that’s not the end of it.

They do still have a dream plan on the table that involves forming a regional water authority and building a pipeline to Wausau, 32 miles away. Wausau is able and seems willing to sell the water, but there are so many complications with this plan. I’d be surprised if it happens. But then again, Abbotsford knows water and just might make a go of it.

Ann Knoedler is the lead construction data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She keeps an extra bottle of water on her desk … just in case.

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