Building community and economic capital in Central Montana.
The Central Montana Regional Water Authority (CMRWA) is a multi-jurisdictional coalition of eight incorporated communities, several unincorporated communities, and many rural families in the Snowy Mountain Economic Development District in central Montana. For the past 15 years, the CMRWA has worked on financing and planning construction of the Musselshell Judith Rural Water System (MJRWS) to provide an abundant supply of high-quality drinking water to communities throughout the region. The communities that belong to the CMRWA have identified having an adequate supply of high-quality drinking water as their top priority. In December 2020, Congress authorized the Clean Water for Rural Communities Act. With the Act’s passage, the CMRWA can now pursue federal appropriations for the $87-million project. Congress determined a 65% federal cost-share is necessary to keep user rates affordable.
The proposed project will positively impact the economy and quality of life in a region with poor quality drinking water. A study conducted by The Value of Water Coalition, a group of water industry leaders, found that for every $1 million invested in water infrastructure, it is estimated that upwards of fifteen jobs are generated throughout the economy. Six direct jobs are generated to support the design and construction of water infrastructure. Nine additional jobs are sustained by the indirect and induced spending triggered by the original investment. If the Coalition’s study is accurate, the construction of the $87-million MJRWS will create over 1,300 jobs in a region plagued with low median household incomes and high poverty rates.
The CMRWA recently applied for funding from USDA Rural Development’s Section 6025 Strategic Economic and Community Development (SECD) Program to construct Phase 1 & Phase 2. The purpose of the SECD is to advance projects such as the MJRWS that support long-term community and economic growth strategies that benefit multiple jurisdictions. Phase 1 will transport water from the Ubet wellfield west of Garneill to Harlowton and approximately 40 rural users. Phase 2 will transport drinking water to Roundup and approximately 80 rural users. The CMRWA is optimistic it will receive the RD funding this spring or early this summer. If that happens, construction of Phase 1 will likely begin this year. Construction of Phase 2 would begin in 2022 or 2023. Each phase will create dozens of well-paying construction jobs that will last several months, providing a much-needed economic boost to communities such as Harlowton, Judith Gap, Ryegate, and Roundup.
For more information, please visit CMRWA’s website at and click on Reports. You can also contact the project engineer, Bob Church, at or the project administrator Monty Sealey at .