Granite Falls' newly-built water treatment plant is providing safe, clean, softened, and very high quality fresh-tasting water to residents and businesses in the city. The new water treatment plant is a large part of part of a $14 million investment in the city's utility infrastructure. The project also involved the installation of digital, remote-read water meters for over 1,600 residential and commercial accounts as well as the planned demolition of the old water treatment plant and restoration of that site along the Minnesota River. That portion of the project is expected to begin late this fall and be completed next spring. The United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development Administration made possible $8 million in low-interest financing for the project, and another $6 million in grant funds. In coordination with the water meter replacement program, new remote-read electric meters were also installed in every home and business in Granite Falls. Replacement of all electric meters was paid for using capitol improvement funds set aside within the city's electric utility. The new, highly-automated plant began treating water in January of this year. The new plant replaces a city facility originally constructed on the Minnesota River in the 1920s, and expanded and upgraded in the 1940s and 1960s. The original plant was vulnerable to flooding due to its location on the Minnesota River, and its equipment was aged and in need of replacement. The new facility treats an average of 350,000 gallons of water per day during the summer months, according to Project Engineer Ryan Capelle, of Stantec Engineering. Water is pumped to the plant from the city's two wells that tap the Quarternary Buried Artesian Aquifer outside the city limits. Due to the plant's design with duplicate treatment capacity, the city staff has the ability to continue treating water on one side of the plant while cleaning and doing maintenance on the other side of the plant. That duplicative capability actually provides the facility the ability to treat more than 800,000 gallons per day. The city chose to include in the plant a lime-softening process in order to provide the highest quality water. It also reduced the amount of water loss and avoided the higher operational costs that are associated with other treatment technologies, according to the project engineer. Granite Falls had originally used water from the Minnesota River for its drinking water supply, but transitioned to a reliable and consistent groundwater source beginning in 1991. Capalle said Granite Falls residents are now enjoying some of the state's highest quality water. Groundwater in this area of the state contains iron, manganese and other minerals, making it hard. However, the new, lime softening treatment plant reduces the raw water's hardness by more than five-fold to about 100 milligrams per liter, considered the industry standard for quality. Ground breaking on the project was held on May 25, 2011, with Rice Lake Construction, Deerwood, serving as the project's general contractor.