Rural water utility purchases land for new water treatment plant in Prince Albert area

The RM of Buckland and RM of Prince Albert Office./Daily Herald File Photo

The Prince Albert Rural Water Utility (PARWU) has purchased land on Peter Pond Rd to develop a new water treatment plant and pipeline that will serve the Town of Shellbrook.

The PARWU board recently approved the purchase at a cost of $900,000. Shellbrook councillor and steering committee chair Brent Miller said projects of this size take time to develop, so residents need to be patient. Once built, he’s confident the plant will provide excellent service for the town, the RM of Shellbrook, and PARWU subscribers.

“The town and the current subscribers I think are going to have long term rate stability because of this project. There is going to be some short term pain all of the time there is always those kinds of things,” Miller said.

“We are going to need to invest a little bit up front in terms of rates I think to see that long term stability. But in the end on the 20 year horizon we have pretty well been able to prove that the economics are much better for the utility and for the subscribers if we invest in the project,” he added.

PARWU purchases water from the City of Prince Albert that serves a network of customers in the RM of Buckland, the RM of Prince Albert, the Muskoday First Nation and the RM of Duck Lake. The PARWU board also now has representatives from the RM of Shellbrook and Town of Shellbrook for regional collaboration to enlarge the PARWU’s ability to service more municipalities with fresh, good drinking water.

With the additions to the board the steering committee was also reconstituted and will report to the PARWU board for managing construction of the project. The board also approved an expenditure of $1.37 million to do geotechnical studies and to decided on process for design of the water treatment plant and do testing on river water.

“Probably in late third quarter 2022, we will finish spending most of that money. We will be in a position with the data we collect to put together a full blown authorization for expenditure for approval to do the entire project, which would be everything that we envisioned before: all of the pipelines and the water treatment plant,” Miller explained.

The projects cost came in at $52.5 million after the conceptual design was completed.

Miller said the Town of Shellbrook will experience some rate pressure but that will be offset by the number of subscribers. He expects ratepayers to break even, but in the long-term they will have more security if a serious problem develops.

“Sometimes they are not little, and can cost half a million dollars,” he explained. “That is the nature of water treatment.”

The ratepayers across the system would have the advantage of this according to Miller.

“They would have the same benefit of scale in that they would have the additional people as well signing up to their system,” Miller said.

Miller added that construction is expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2022.

“If we are going to hit any roadblocks we will know about it before then,” he said. “We will be able to incorporate the mitigation costs into the overall AFP that we are preparing at that time, and it should be all systems go.”

Miller said the next step is finding funding sources for the project. The steering committee is looking at applying for grants and setting up fundraising plans. Miller said it’s a bit too early to predict how that will happen.

“There is going to be a bit of an effort in the next year here to start fundraising and getting funds in place that way, so we will gave to just wait and see how that turns out,” he said.