WORTHINGTON - In a little more than a month, the city of Worthington will be turning on the tap to accept over 1.9 million gallons of water per day from the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System.

Construction crews are on schedule with pipeline installation, but the caveat is the 2-million gallon water reservoir under construction along Monroe Avenue, west of Worthington.

“It was not a great year for construction for anybody, and they have fallen a bit behind,” said Troy Larson, executive director of Lewis & Clark Regional Water System (LCRWS). Still, the contractor has offered assurances it will complete the project on time.

“The good news, though things can always change with contractors, is everything looks to be a go in terms of getting water to Worthington by late November, early December,” Larson said.

Contractors planned to complete pipe installation by the end of this week, he noted. Once that is done, disinfection and pressure testing of the lines can begin.

The Lewis & Clark water, which comes from an aquifer adjacent to the Missouri River and now feeds into 20 cities and rural water systems in South Dakota, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota, will be blended 50-50 with the water from Worthington’s nine wells. The biggest thing local water uses will notice is softer water.

“We’re going to see about a 40 percent reduction in our hardness with that water blend,” said Scott Hain, Worthington Public Utilities general manager. Within a couple months after blending has started, Hain said city water users will be notified they can adjust their water softeners. The softer water coming in should mean a savings to residents in the amount of salt they use for water softening.

As crews construct the pipeline to Worthington and complete the reservoir, work is also progressing at Worthington Public Utilities’ water treatment plant.

“Our pump station, reception point and blending point are substantially complete and in service,” Hain said. “The Lewis & Clark meter building is substantially complete and ready for operation.”

If the water reservoir isn’t ready in time, Worthington will still be able to take a lesser amount of Lewis & Clark water, Hain said.

In preparation for the new water source, Hain said Worthington Public Utilities will be making a change in the disinfectant it uses to treat water. The new chloramine disinfectant is considered a more stable product and will last longer.

“For the vast majority of customers, they aren’t going to notice any difference at all,” Hain said.

Because chloramine is more difficult to remove from water, it creates concern for patients on dialysis and people who have aquariums. Hain said information has been distributed to institutions who provide dialysis treatment.

Other communities already accessing Lewis & Clark water are using chloramine, including the city of Luverne and portions of the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water service area, Hain said.

With the connection to LCRWS soon to be a reality, Hain’s excitement is building.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” he said.

Hain lobbied hard for the Minnesota Legislature to advance funding to complete the Minnesota portion of the Lewis & Clark water project, doing so at a time when local lakes were shrinking and portions of Lake Bella, the city’s wellhead, had dried up during a multi-year drought.

Today, the opposite is true.

“Our well levels are essentially the highest they’ve been in 30 years,” Hain said. “Yet it isn’t a matter of if the next drought will come, it’s a matter of when. We’re excited to get hooked up to Lewis & Clark.”

Larson said a celebration marking the completion of the water line to Worthington is planned, though a date has yet to be set.

“We are trying to coordinate with Gov. (Mark) Dayton’s schedule to see if we can do a celebration in December,” Larson said. “If he can’t make it, we would likely wait until spring to let the weather cooperate. He’s been so incredibly helpful and supportive with the federal funding advances. Without those advances, we would be years away from getting water to Worthington.”

While Worthington readies to celebrate, the growth of Lewis & Clark continues. On Thursday, the LCRWS awarded a contract for test and observation wells to be constructed at the system’s main wellfield at Mulberry Point, south of Vermillion, S.D. The plan is to eventually construct a collector well there that will get 16 million gallons of water a day.

“As we’re adding more members like Worthington, we need to add more well capacity,” Larson said.