Hydraulic Model and Municipal, Rural and Industrial (MR&I) Master Plan

The Blackfeet Nation and the Blackfeet Water Department (BWD) are partnering with some of the most trusted and experienced engineers in the state of Montana, in order to study our existing water system and deliver crucial improvements. In times of climate crisis and water uncertainty, creating, improving, and sustaining our water infrastructure is of utmost concern and priority for our people. We are working to improve drinking water access and delivery for residents and businesses. We are also in the process of improving the reliability and efficiency of our delivery system for irrigation water for agricultural users. These projects include improved irrigation systems, the construction of municipal water systems, and so much more.

A river running through rolling hills

After decades of negotiation, our people secured the rights to our water. April 20th, 2017 is a historical day in Blackfeet history, we voted in favor of the Blackfeet Water Compact and Settlement Act. With access to 471 million dollars in federal funds, it is critical that we begin investing in infrastructure and systems that will benefit the entire community. Our partnership with HDR, a highly qualified international engineering firm with a strong Montana presence of over 200 engineers and technicians, who has worked with organizations and Native nations from across the United States, will help us achieve our goal and ensure that we continue to execute our reserved water rights and ultimately, provide safe and reliable water for all of our residents and water users of Blackfeet country.

“This is our water and no one is taking it from us. Water is everything for us” – Chief Earl Old Person

There are two immediate priorities that we will begin with: The Hydraulic Model, and the Water Master Plan. These are important for informing the creation of infrastructure that will strengthen the health and sovereignty of our people for generations to come. The Hydraulic Model will mimic the existing water system, pumps, storage tanks, pipes, in a computer model which will allow us to understand the day-to-day operation of our water systems. The Hydraulic Model will be used to identify potential areas of concerns, low pressure areas, low flow areas, zones of inefficiency, and how the system will operate under a variety of scenarios, including high-water use in fire season, and other shortages. Additionally, the system will recognize opportunities for future development and help us save money by ensuring that we are making smart and strategic investments the first time around.

A large blue river

Based on the data collected and modeled, we will be able to determine where there may be issues with water pressure and flow as well as verify pump, pipeline and storage tank sizes and make adjustments as needed. The Hydraulic Model is an integral part of the master water planning process and is a tool that can estimate how a system will work 5, 10, 15 and 20 years into the future. Based on the discoveries made within the hydraulic modeling process, we will begin to put together a Water Master Plan that will outline subsequent projects to improve flow, pressure, and efficiency across the system. In short, our investments in the water system will be backed up by the best available analysis, in order to ensure that Blackfeet members can rely on their taps.

These processes will be carried out over the next 12-18 months. We will navigate the Hydraulic Model and Master Plan in partnership with HDR, to ensure we are designing and developing an efficient system that will provide water for domestic, commercial, industrial, municipal and cultural uses to our homeland.