More people means Dickinson will need to use more water.

 Dickinson will need to spend millions of dollars in the next few years to upgrade its water and sewer systems to support projected growth in the city.

Working with engineers from Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson and Apex Engineering, experts have identified more than $84 million worth of water-related projects to get water to Dickinson residents and to remove it from homes, bringing it to the $48 million waste water treatment plant that broke ground in August. That brings the grand total to update the city's water system to $132 million.

"We're going to have to make priorities," said City Administrator Shawn Kessel.

In 2000, the population of Dickinson was 16,010, 2011 estimates placed it at 18,499, and city data reflects that it has now passed the 20,000 mark.

More people means Dickinson will need to use more water.

"You need about another 2 million gallons of storage in your system today," KLJ Division Leader Brant Malsam said.

The No. 1 priority KLJ has identified is a $3 million master pumping station.

Other priorities include improvements to an east side industrial annexation, short-term improvements to the existing system and replacing degraded water mains throughout the city.

The minimum cost for the priority projects is $34 million, but KLJ has identified almost $70 million more in improvements.

The city may have to get creative with water-related infrastructure needs, Malsam said. One option is to create a pressurized system in some subdivisions with the idea that an elevated tower would eventually supply that area.

"We try to prioritize what we're seeing," he said "I think you're in a process where you're going to need to sit back and take a good look at" what needs to happen.

As the city grows westward, one of the most critical projects will be a new sewer line along Exit 59, where much of the residential and commercial development is planned, Bismarck-based Apex Engineering Principal Engineer Mike Berg said.

"The existing infrastructure was really designed for about 22,000 to 24,000 people," he said. "The last major improvements were in the early '80s, during the last energy boom. Everything is close to design capacity right now."

All of the waste water from the west side of town is being pumped to the main line along 10th Avenue East, Berg said. There is a bottleneck along that line heading to the current waste water facility. Estimates have more than 800 gallons coming from retail and residential development near Exit 59 alone.

"We don't have that capacity," he said, "And there aren't any easy Band-Aids to get that capacity."

There are things residents can do to ease wear and tear on the system, Berg said. One such thing is directing water from sump pumps outside a home during the summer rather than into the sewer system. This reduces flow by about 100 gallons per minute during a heavy thunderstorm.

Another issue facing Dickinson's sewer system is sand from the north side of town, he said. It reduces the capacity of pipes as well as increases wear and tear on the pipes.

"Controlling sand and oil and grease entering the sewer system will buy you time," he said. "It will increase capacities."

Most of the projected waste water reclamation projects include building or upgrading old lift stations, gravity sewers and basins.