North Dakota's oil boomtowns are facing an uncertain future — here's what it's like to live there

watford city north dakota oil town

  • North Dakota towns exploded in size as part of the state’s oil boom.
  • But the end of the boom spelled economic disaster for many of the new residents in towns such as Williston and Watford City.
  • Now, the towns are facing an uncertain future.

The discovery of oil in northwestern North Dakota turned several small towns into unexpected boomtowns from 2006 to 2014.

In places like Williston and Watford City, town populations more than doubled as lucrative jobs in the oil industry attracted workers from all over the world. 

By 2016, the price of oil plummeted from more than $100 a barrel to $30, sending the same towns into an economic tailspin. Now, with fewer jobs to go around and local schools and police departments straining, their residents are facing an uncertain future.

Here’s what it’s like to live in North Dakota’s oil boomtowns.

The North Dakota oil boom peaked in 2012, six years after oil was discovered in the northwest corner of the state.

In 2014, North Dakota was producing 1.2 million barrels of oil every day.

Source: Star Tribune

During the boom, thousands of people flocked to small towns like Williston and Watford City as lucrative jobs in the oil industry became readily available.

Source: Billings Gazette

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