A water engineer and freeride parent
Manka brings stakeholder experience from the solutions forum to a seat on the water and sewer board
In May, Peter Manka will become a director on the Big Sky Water and Sewer District Board. But on March 20, Manka he was unofficially welcomed with a seat at the table inside the district’s conference room during the board’s monthly meeting.
This election cycle, Manka and Tom Reeves were the only two candidates to file for two open seats on the board, so they won automatically by acclamation. This makes Manka the newest director to sign on at a time when the district is headed into a critical development phase as it seeks to expand service while protecting local water supplies and the Gallatin River.
When he’s not shuttling his daughters to ski racing and freeride events, Manka runs Alpine Water. It services more than 100 Big Sky water users who live outside the water and sewer district boundary. Manka said many of them draw from deep wells, not the aquifers at the Mountain Village and Meadow.
The Meadow aquifer is the subject of a current study by the Montana Bureau of Mines. Manka said, “I think everybody is anxiously awaiting this Bureau of Mines report. It really got deep into the Meadow aquifer. I think that’s going to be key information. There could be possibly much more water or much less water. This report is going to be key to honing in.”
Over the last several years, Manka has honed his focus on local water issues, including lobbying the water and sewer board to avoid going to a chlorine purification system.
“We approached the board and said, ‘Hey, we moved here for clean air and water,’” recalled Manka. “Then the board moved forward with a state-of-the-art ultraviolet water treatment system. The initial cost was higher, but the long-term cost is lower. The year following that we were voted the best tap water in America. So, the (water and sewer) board has an exceptional record of putting the interests of their customers first.”
Manka explained his interest in serving on the board like this: “I’m a water resource engineer. I have a background in water resource management. I am interested to see what transpires with our water.”
While participating as a stakeholder in the recent Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum, 43-year-old Manka said he watched a game plan come together that he’ll draw from while making future decisions. There are some big ones on the horizon—how to conserve and expand water supply, while disposing of an increased flow of treated water.
Drawing a connection between the solutions forum and his future work on the water and sewer board, Manka said, “I see those as working hand in hand. They basically gave us some ammunition to develop some priorities for the long-term. I think everybody wants to see a best-case solution.”
The water and sewer board will debate who bares the cost of future solutions, and Manka acknowledges that “the fiscal realities of what we could do” remain a contentious and to-be-determined piece of the process.
“I’m excited to find good solutions for the future,” continued Manka. “We have a tremendous opportunity. This watershed forum came on at a time when we still have some time to implement some state-of-the-art solutions that other water systems in Montana couldn’t even consider.”