Water and Wastewater

Water Conservation Ordinance

"It isn't about using less water, it's about wasting less". 

Balancing the water use with recent hotter, drier summers is a
critical challenge for Whitefish’s population today and for the future.
Reducing the amount of water that is wasted is part of the City’s
Climate Action Plan and an effective way to balance water demands
with limited available water resources.

Click the link below to assist you in answering some questions you may have. 

Important Questions and Answers

Irrigation Runoff

Wastewater Facility Improvement Project

The City is in the final stages of designing the new wastewater treatment plant.  The anticipated schedule is as follows:

  • July 2019 - Submit final Plans & Specifications to DEQ
  • August 2019 - Project Bidding
  • Fall 2019 - Begin Construction
  • Spring 2021 - Project Completion

The City of Whitefish has hired a consulting team utilizing Anderson-Montgomery Consulting Engineers of Helena, in association with Robert Peccia & Associates of Kalispell, to assess the City's wastewater treatment plant and collection system.  The age and condition of the wastewater facilities in the City, as well as new regulatory treatment standards, provides the impetus for the technical assessment.  The City has over 58 miles of sewage main and 17 lift stations required to serve the homes and businesses found on the varied topography throughout the community.  The treatment system utilizes a lagoon-based technology that has been modified and upgraded several times over the last 40 years including the inclusion of a mechanical process to remove the nutrient phosphorous.  Both the wastewater collection facilities and the treatment plant will require improvements to make the system effective and capable of complying with new anticipated treatment standards.


Progress Report on Treatment Plant Upgrade

Current Report (July 2019) - Final design of the new wastewater treatment plant is wrapping up and the project is on track to go to bid early this fall. The new plant is required by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in order to meet the parameters in the City’s discharge permit. Once bids are submitted, the contract for construction will be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. Construction is anticipated to begin late this fall or early in the spring of 2020, depending on the schedule of the selected contractor and the fall and winter weather conditions. The City has also been working to secure the funds needed to construct the project. In addition to a loan through the State Revolving Fund that will cover a majority of the construction costs, the City is excited to announce that $1,100,000 of grant money and loan principle forgiveness has been awarded to Whitefish to help offset the overall cost of the project. Once construction begins, the project should take approximately 18-24 months to reach completion.

Background Information - In January 2017, the City’s engineering consultants Anderson-Montgomery Consulting Engineers and Robert Peccia & Associates began the design of a major upgrade to the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Portions of the existing plant date back to the late 70’s and the facility is not capable of meeting current or anticipated new regulatory permit requirements. As a result, the Facilities Planning process completed in 2016 indicated that a new mechanical treatment plant, generally described as a Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR), was the most cost-effective means of upgrading the City’s wastewater treatment facilities. This type of plant will produce a high quality discharge including the removal of much of the ammonia in the effluent, a significant lowering of the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the discharge and a reduced potential for odor generation. The plant is being designed to meet the standards set in the 2015 wastewater discharge permit issued to the City by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), including limits for total nitrogen and total phosphorous allowed through a general variance process established by the state. Estimated costs for the plant are $17.5 million dollars.

Changes in Nutrient Standards – Shortly after design began on the new plant, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality indicated that they were being required by the EPA to lower the nutrient limits for nitrogen and phosphorous allowed under the general variance process described in DEQ Circular 12B, Nutrient Standards Variances.  The DEQ revised the general variance limits to reflect the “Highest Achievable Condition” as suggested by a new Federal Rule, 40 CFR 131.14. The proposed treatment facilities under design for the City cannot meet the new HAC limits without substantial modification and addition of a new tertiary unit process. The additional improvements would add a cost of approximately $9.5 million dollars to the $18.5 estimated costs for the SBR plant to meet the current (2015) treatment standards.   

Individual Economic Variance – Recently adopted Montana law allows for the granting of individual nutrient standards variances based on the particular economic and financial situation in a community.  The City of Whitefish requested a variance from the more restrictive nutrient standards in the new DEQ rules based on a demonstration that the costs to meet the standards would have substantial and widespread adverse economic impacts. The DEQ and EPA have approved the City’s request for a nutrient variance and the updated version of DEQ Circular 12B was signed by the Montana DEQ Director Tom Livers on May 29, 2018.  The City of Whitefish now has the first nutrient variance adopted by the State of Montana.

While a variance in the treatment standards may be granted by the regulatory agency, the performance of the new plant will still allow for significantly better water quality in the treated discharge sent to the Whitefish River. No adverse impacts to the Whitefish River or Flathead Lake are anticipated with the implementation of the new plant operating under the conditions of the variance. The new plant will be designed to conserve energy and reduce the use of chemicals.

Equipment Procurement – Generally when selecting a SBR system, an engineer will bid the equipment initially and design the treatment plant around a specific type of equipment, allowing for a better and more cost-effective design.  Upon completion of the bidding process the Aqua-Aerobic AquaNereda (Nereda®) system was selected.   On 12/3/2018 the Whitefish City Council awarded the Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements Project Equipment Procurement to Aqua-Aerobic Systems, Inc. in the amount of $2,365,911.

AquaNereda® – While cost and energy efficiencies definitely support the selection of the Aqua system, the process that this company is proposing is new to the US and utilizes a type of activated sludge process that has recently evolved as an extremely effective treatment technology.

A public-private research partnership in the Netherlands between led to the development of the first technology applying “Aerobic Granular Sludge, or AGS. Currently, over 30 full-scale Nereda® plants are operational or under design and construction across five continents, of which the oldest are more than 10 years in operation.  As of September 2016, Aqua Aerobic Systems, Inc. of Loves Park, IL became the exclusive licensee of the technology in the United States. We have been favorably impressed with the company that stands behind this process and we are excited to move forward with this new technology. 

In the Nereda® process, specific environmental conditions are established which cause these microbial biomasses to become relatively large, described as Aerobic Granular Sludge (AGS), which has excellent settling properties. In more practical terms, this technology will allow us to build smaller basins which are roughly half the size of more traditional SBR basins, allowing for construction savings, reduced energy consumption, and more effective use of the land at the treatment plant site.

Aqua Aerobic Equipment Award (City Council Packet - 12/3/2018)

Wastewater System Improvements Project Final PER- 10/16

Project Schedule

Conceptual Site Plan

Equipment and Power Estimates


Drinking Water 

Annual Water Quality Reports