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Bennington, Vt., Sees Water as a Liquid Asset

Bennington, Vt. — A Vermont town looking to boost its economy is considering dipping into the most liquid of assets: its water.

Bennington is looking for a bottler who might want to set up a plant and sell what town officials describe as its “ultra-clean” water from Morgan Spring, an artesian spring at the base of the Green Mountain National Forest.

The town of about 16,000 people only uses about 10 percent of the 2.1 million gallons of water Morgan Spring generates daily, officials said.

“With a vast percentage of this resource being untapped, Bennington sees this as an opportunity that should not be overlooked,” said Michael Harrington, the town’s economic and community development director.

Bennington already sells about $25,000 worth of water a year to bottled water company Vermont Pure, which is limited to hauling 100,000 gallons a day from the spring but never maxes out, said Town Manager Stuart Hurd. So why not try to sell more?

“A bottling plant would not only be good to buy more water, the bottling plant would also create jobs, it would build the grand list, and it’s an economic development opportunity as well as a revenue opportunity of us,” Hurd said.

But the town can’t afford to build a plant itself.

Ten years ago, it looked for potential water buyers and landed Vermont Pure, but other discussions never panned out. Now, with a relatively new economic development director on board, the town is revisiting the idea.

“It’s a new attempt to generate interest,” Hurd said.

Bennington isn’t the only Vermont community considering cashing in on its spring water.

The city of Rutland’s former public works commissioner looked into selling water in 2007 but the workload and capital needed to pursue a contractor to build a plant or do the work was too much for the department.

“It wasn’t considered a high enough priority to go through the effort and expense to test its viability,” said current Public Works Commissioner Jeff Wennberg.

But if Bennington’s efforts mean more economic activity starts to trickle into town, Rutland may take notice, Wennberg said.

“If Bennington does it maybe we’ll reconsider that and take another look it, that’s possible,” he said.