A proposal to convert Saint John's drinking water system over to wells instead of lakes won't be quick or easy, based on the experience of another New Brunswick community.
The city hopes to save as much as $60 million on the cost of water treatment facilities by making the switch.
But New Maryland has been trying to develop a new municipal well for the past two years — and it's still about a year away from bringing it online, said Mayor Judy Wilson-Shee.
Although the village has found a water source, it still has to purchase land, pay for piping to the well, and create a protected zone with no septic systems, gas stations or industry allowed nearby, she said.
"I would say that it's just not a project you jump into," said Wilson-Shee.
"There's a lot of homework that has to be done. And then, when you do run into a hurdle, you have to go to the table and you have to talk and consider how you're going to walk around that."
Saint John municipal engineer Dean Price acknowledges it won't be easy, particularly since the city would need as many as 30 wells, compared to the one well required for the Village of New Maryland, which has a population of about 4,500.
"We’re just going to have to see how it plays out over the next months and years," he said.
"The phase we're in now is exploration, and exploration is a bit of a risk. You don't know what you're going to get."
Earlier this week, council approved a plan to spend $95,000 so a consulting firm could begin drilling test wells this fall near the Westgate Park subdivision.
"We need to find good quality groundwater that's easy to treat, or needs very little treatment. We also need the quantity," said Price.
"There are no guarantees at this point."
If the city stays with surface water, Saint John is facing a $110-million bill to construct a new water treatment facility.
If enough water can be found underground to serve the needs of the population, the cost of treatment facilities could be as low as $40 million.
Last month, the owner of a drilling company said Saint John would have a difficult time finding enough underground water.
Carmen Doherty, who has been drilling wells in the city for more than 30 years, told CBC News that water is getting harder to find and is a challenge due to deep shale rock formations.