Billings Integrated Water Plan

Billings, Montana | Billings Integrated Water Plan

Billings Integrated Water Plan

Tackling Multiple Infrastructure Challenges

The City of Billings was facing many water management challenges. First, the discharge permit from the central wastewater treatment plant to the Yellowstone River was due for renewal, three major local industries asked for a connection to City sewer service and multiple total maximum daily loads were scheduled for development on the Yellowstone River. Second, their drinking water treatment facility was nearing capacity. Third, the City faced new stormwater quality regulations from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality as part of its Phase 2 MS4 program. Rather than handling these issues independently, the City chose to look at these issues together and contemplated ways the water-related utilities could work together to meet multiple objectives through integrated planning.

The emphasis of the integrated plan was to blend the goals of the City with stakeholder input to identify potential programs and actions that provided positive enhancements to the future utility operations, as well as address present and future regulatory challenges. Six overall water management alternatives were developed and each included wastewater, drinking water and stormwater components. A stakeholder group helped develop the criteria and weighting for evaluation of alternative water management approaches. The stakeholder group included political interests (City Council, Utilities Board, County), as well as economic interests (Chamber of Commerce, large local industries/refineries, realtors) and members of the regulatory community (MDEQ and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). Montana State University Billings also conducted a phone survey of residents to determine how important water management was compared with other City issues and whether they would support a more integrated approach to water management. This was an important step for receiving community feedback and obtaining their support. 

Changing the way of thinking from “this is how we have always done it” to “perhaps there is a better way” required consideration of all dimensions of planning, including social, environmental and economic aspects. As the plan was implemented, it gained tremendous momentum and the City became more integrated in its decision making.

City of Billing's "Nutrients, Our Water and Working Together" Video
Billings, Montana | Billings Integrated Water Plan
City of Billings

Billings, MT
United States

109,595 Population Size in 2019