Water supply to cost over $100 million over 25 years
Okotoks: Report shows Bow River only reliable long term option
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Thursday, Aug 29, 2013 09:48 am
Whether it’s a pipeline from Calgary, the Bow River or the Highwood River, plans to supply Okotoks with water for the next 25 years could cost at least $100 million.
A report presented to town council last week showed a number of different scenarios to supply enough water for an estimated population of 58,000 by 2038 could cost between $97.7 million and $175.4 million.
Okotoks Coun. Matt Rockley acknowledged it will be expensive, but added the Town won’t be shouldering the entire cost on its own. He said the provincial government could cover up to 90 per cent of the cost through its Water for Life program. In addition, levies paid by developers and utility revenues will help pay for the cost of the town’s water system.
“The reality is that this is an area, a place and a town where people want to be and with that growing population, growing businesses and growing industries, there’s a need for more water,” he said. “And, as I mentioned, those costs will be shared amongst the Province, development industry and utility customers.”
The report looked at the cost of three main options: building a pipeline from Calgary; a water line from the Bow River outside Calgary; and one from the Highwood River. Each was then broken down into a number of other scenarios, such as keeping the existing water treatment plant operating, using an outside source to supplement the town’s water needs or replacing the facility entirely.
The study looked at both the immediate price to build each option and the cost to operate the system over the next 25 years. The lowest cost scenario is continuing to use the Okotoks water treatment plant and building a pipeline from Calgary to cover additional water needs. The report estimated this option will require an initial investment of $37.2 million and would cost a total of $97.7 million over the next 25 years. However, the final price could be higher because the report does not include the price to connect a pipeline from the Calgary boundary to the city’s water system. Council has asked for the report to be updated to include this cost.
The most expensive option was to build a pipeline to take untreated water from the Bow River outside of Calgary to the existing water treatment plant. This scenario would cost $175.4 million over the next 25 years.
A pipeline from the Highwood River ranged between $105.2 million and $155.4 million by 2038.
The report doesn’t make any specific recommendations, but it does outline the cost of various options.
It is less expensive to keep the existing water treatment plant up and running and using an outside source to supplement the Town’s needs.
As well, the report questions the availability of water licenses along the Highwood River and states a pipeline from the Bow River, either from Calgary or a location outside the city, is the most cost effective option in the long run.
Rockley said he is leaning towards a pipeline from Calgary.
“The information that’s come forward is showing the connection with the Calgary water system is the most economical and is a technically sound option as well,” he said.
Mayor Bill Robertson said it shows the Town needs to look to the Bow River for its future water supply.
“It appears it comes down to a raw water pipeline from the Bow (River) or a treated water pipeline from the City of Calgary, of which we don’t have all the costs,” he said.
However, Robertson said he doesn’t want to see Okotoks turn off its water treatment plant.
Not only does the report show it would bring down costs, he said it could provide a back up if a pipeline from an outside source were to go out of commission.
Coun. Laurie Hodson said he has a few questions about the report.
He said it should also have looked at the potential to build a reservoir upstream of Okotoks. He said this could not only be used to supply water for communities in the foothills, but also to protect against flooding along the Sheep River.
“The report should be all encompassing,” said Hodson. “There are a number of individuals in our community who have said to council, please look at the option of upstream storage.”
He said the Town shouldn’t be looking at a pipeline from Calgary because council voted a year ago not to accept water from the City.
“I had to question then why we seem insistent, through our administration, to keep assessing and analyzing the pipeline from the City of Calgary when in fact council has said no,” said Hodson.
Marley Oness, Okotoks’ municipal engineer, said the Town still needs to do more detailed work to narrow down the list of potential options.
“I think we’ll be looking at a feasibility study for one or more of those options,” he said.
Oness said reservoirs were outside of the scope of the study. He said one problem with building a reservoir on the Sheep River is the Town would still need to acquire water licenses. The number of licenses available along the river is limited and he said the Province won’t issue new licenses in the South Saskatchewan River basin.
He said the a pipeline from Calgary was included in the report to give councillors the opportunity to compare it to the other options.