The city of Missoula will include the airport's water system in its sampling plan for testing under an agreement approved this week by the Missoula County Airport Authority.

The airport maintains what's known as a Consecutive Public Water Supply and distributes water to a number of customers on and off the airfield. The Department of Environmental Quality wants the system checked as more customers join the system and usage grows with the airport.

“It does look at this point that we'll need to have further testing, and that's really a requirement of DEQ,” airport director Cris Jensen said. “We could have done that ourselves, or we could work with the city of Missoula.”

The agreement will provide the city access to the airport water system for testing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The city will also consider the airport's water system to be part of the Missoula system, although the airport will maintain ownership of its system and stand responsible for maintenance.

Jensen called it a good agreement and said it was approved by all parties.

“This was driven a little by the fact that we have a developer just to the east of us that's wanting to do a little bit of development out there and has asked to hook up to our water system,” Jensen said. “That solidified the fact that we are now a water distributor. This formalizes that process and makes sure we have a clear relationship with the city of Missoula water.”

Jensen said both Mountain Water and Missoula Water have in the past asked about acquiring the airport's water system. But the system was built with federal funding, complicating any transfer.

Airfield restrictions also complicate a transfer, Jensen said.

“It's possible that somebody would have to pay back the FAA for that investment,” Jensen said. “We think this is the best way to control it and, at the same time, accomplish the task with which we're required.”