City opens new reservoir and pump house facilities

Guests and dignitaries got a look at the $15.78 million in new water facilities that were officially opened on Monday. That list includes a new $2.78 million above-ground pump house upgrade (pictured) as well as a new $12-million reservoir. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

City officials hope they never have to deal with another water crisis, but they’ll be ready if they do.

On Friday the City of Prince Albert officially unveiled a newly completed 15-million litre reservoir, as well as a new 227 square-metre above-ground pump house. The new facility increases the City’s water storage capacity to 52.6 million litres, a need that became apparent following the 2016 water crisis.

Mayor Greg Dionne said that crisis helped them convince the federal government to contribute $6 million to the $12 million project, and the fruits of that labour were visible during a media tour Friday afternoon.

“If it wasn’t for 2016 they probably wouldn’t have come on board even though the province was pushing them, but sometimes you need a disaster to improve what you have, and that was the case here,” Dionne said just before the ribbon cutting. “Now we’ve got lots of water.”

The provincial government and City of Prince Albert chipped in with $3 million apiece for the reservoir. When combined with the new pump house, the project’s total cost comes to $14.78 million.

Dionne said it wouldn’t have been possible without those funds, and he thanked both levels of government for helping out.

“That’s what civic government’s about now,” he said. “We have to have partnerships. Infrastructure is so expensive and costly to repair. We just can’t do it on our own.”

Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave was on hand to help Dionne officially open the new facility. Hargrave said chipping in was an easy decision for the provincial government, as well as an important one.

“The City’s needs have grown as far as water,” Hargrave said after the ribbon cutting. “We went through that episode in 2016 where we didn’t have a big enough reservoir. This probably wouldn’t have covered it, but it would have given us a few days grace to make other arrangements and we wouldn’t have had to go without water, so this is a much needed reservoir and I’m really happy that the province contributed $3 million to it.”

While water supply was the main concern, it wasn’t the only one. Water Treatment Facility Manager Andy Busse said having a new 15-million litre reservoir means more time for maintenance, and less stress if they need to make repairs.

Water Treatment Facility Manager Andy Busse gives a tour on Friday, Nov. 8. — Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

By law, the City must keep a certain amount of water available for emergency situations, like fires, but their old water capacity level meant city workers only had 12 hours to make repairs before they hit that level. Now, they’ll be able to take an older reservoir out of service during the summer and make some repairs.

“We can actually take one of the 15-million litre reservoirs out of service in the summer time and not have to worry about having a timeline to get it back (in action),” Busse said. “We can still operate with one in place, so that’s going to allow us to do some refurbishments and repairs on the older reservoir. It’s going to require those in the next year or two.”

Busse added that it’s nice to have the extra water supply for emergencies, which will also make life easier for city staff.

“You never know where there’s technical issues or water quality issues that you have to fight through,” he said. “If you’re able to slow the treatment process down because you can rely on the storage reservoirs, it makes it easier to treat the water.”

The pump house upgrades will improve pumping capacity while decreasing power costs. The infrastructure was built above ground to protect against flooding risks, since the facility is located in Prince Albert’s flood zone.