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Rural water provider investigates lost revenue, unmetered use

Traill Rural Water District may have lost nearly $50,000 in revenue over a four-month period this winter, possibly the result of illegal water hook-ups.

An investigation is underway by the Traill County Sheriff’s Department and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation to determine if any laws have been broken, according to Sheriff Mike Crocker.

Traill Rural Water currently is averaging about $85,000 per month in expenses, but just $81,000 in revenue, according to Neil Breidenbach, manager of Grand Forks-Traill Water District, who also is serving as interim manager of Traill Rural Water District. The two districts share a border.

6.7 million gallons

Like other water districts, Traill tabulates how much water it is using and compares it with how much is measured through meters. Here are the monthly totals in unmetered water and lost revenue, over the past four months, according to the district:

  •  December: loss of 1.3 million gallons, or $9,500.
  •  January: loss of 600,000 gallons, or $4,200.
  •  February: loss of 2.2 million gallons, or $15,600.
  •  March: loss of 2.6 million gallons, or $18,700.

The illegal hook-ups were discovered this winter.

The district’s manager, Jerome Olson, resigned in February.

“We had a bunch of freeze-ups, and there were areas where they had water that wasn’t being metered,” he said. “There’s no proof of any wrongdoing, as far as I know.

“We did see a few that were not done correctly. They apparently had some permission to do it that way. But how they got that permission, we don’t know.”

No penalties yet

Traill Rural Water sent a letter in April to some 800 customers explaining the situation.

“If you are in violation, or think you may be in violation, please contact the office by June 15,” the letter reads, “and we will rectify the situation without imposing the penalty.”

The district warns that any illegal hookup discovered after June 15 will result in a theft of service violation. “There will be no less than a $5,000 penalty for any member that intentionally uses water without first running the water through a water meter,” the letter read.

Traill Rural Water, based in Clifford, N.D., has about 750 rural customers in southern Traill County. It also sells bulk untreated water to the North Dakota cities of Mayville and Hillsboro and then buys back the treated water. It also sells bulk water to the North Dakota cities of Grandin, Portland and Galesburg.

Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.  

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