Feb 07, 2018

Montana Ski Town May Utilize Treated Wastewater to Make Snow

Potential plan would reduce discharges and prevent a potential water crisis

Montana ski town may use treated wastewater to create snow

The city of Big Sky, Mont., is considering utilizing treated wastewater to make snow in order to solve several problems facing the city. Doing so could potentially account for decreased snowfall, decrease wastewater discharges and prevent a potential water crisis.

The small ski town is home to only 2,300 full-time residents, but also accommodates a significant number of tourists annually with a number of prestigious ski resorts. The town has been reeling from possible water problems since its boom in 1992. Following the boom, groundwater reserves, which serve as the town’s only drinking water source, became significantly depleted.

Though the town upgraded its wastewater treatment facility 15 years ago with a $15 million upgrade, the addition is already proving insufficient as the town struggles with how to utilize the wastewater and where to put it without discharging into the Gallatin River, a significant natural draw for residents and tourists alike. The snow creation solution may help to remedy that problem.

“Since Big Sky is located at the headwaters of the Gallatin and Madison rivers, we have no upstream source of water,” said Kristin Gardner, executive director of the Gallatin River Task Force. “Reusing wastewater as snow will replenish aquifers, provides more opportunity for natural treatment and slowly releases water to our rivers when they need it most in the late season.”

This potential move towards producing snow has community support despite the potential negative public connotations of skiing on reclaimed water.