Town reduces water waste with repairs

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Maintenance crews in Black Diamond have put a stop to water leaks that accounted for half of the town’s water use the past few months.

Throughout the summer and fall, the Town of Black Diamond repaired water main breaks.

The leaks accounted for 51 per cent of the water the Town was getting from the Sheep River Regional Utility Corporation (SRRUC).

Repairs were made at Parkview Place and Crescent, Fifth Avenue SW and the back lane behind the municipal building.

“You add all of these pieces together and it made a significant difference to what our unaccounted for water was,” said Sharlene Brown, chief administrative officer, last week.

“We have made significant improvements in accounting for the water that is being shipped from (SRRUC). With these fixes, the town has reduced the amount of money that we pay for water from SRRUC.”

Brown said the situation could change at any moment.

“If we have two watermains with two leaks, we could be in the same boat,” she said. “It wouldn’t take much for it to do that again. All we can do is ensure we maintain and focus on infrastructure spending going forward to be able to address the deficiencies in the system.”

Some of Black Diamond’s water pipelines exceed 60 years of age in the older parts of town. Another leak would have the Town, once again, paying for water that’s going into the ground rather than into sinks, tubs and glasses, Brown said.

“You get freeze and thaws and the pipes burst and crack,” she said. “Anytime you have older infrastructure that hasn’t been maintained in a long period of time it’s subject to having issues. It also depends on the construction of the pipe and installation and warranties and all kinds of different things that come into play.”

The problem of aging infrastructure is faced by all Alberta communities, said Brown.

In recent years, the Town’s resource time and efforts went towards flood mitigation from 2013 to 2016 following the 2013 flood that wiped out the town’s water treatment plant, she said.

“There was no money budgeted for infrastructure in those years,” she said. “There was no resources, effort, dollars, people or anything put towards any infrastructure projects that weren’t flood-related until last year. We hadn’t been doing anything since 2013 because we were off track due to the flood. Now we are getting back on track.”

The Town had budgeted for $1.5 million in water-related infrastructure in 2017, with a focus on water loss, after beginning plans in 2016 to address its aging infrastructure.

Brown said measures need to be taken to replace aging infrastructure and tackle water leaks as they occur.

Whatever action is taken in the coming years is up to council, said Brown.

“Council will need to choose their priorities going forward,” she said. “We don’t have the flexibility to have $1.5 million every year to focus on infrastructure. What we want to continue to do is mitigate the risk of having the same situation of having a percentage of unaccountable water.”

Administration conducted an infrastructure study in 2015 and 2016 which looked at the age of the pipes, water flow, pressure and noise and videos and will use the study to determine priorities in coming years, said Brown.

She said the town’s infrastructure is reviewed annually and a new infrastructure plan is created approximately every 10 years.

“An infrastructure study should be done between the fifth and eighth year to create the plan for the next 10 years,” she said. “As long as we have an active maintenance program we are trying to implement so that we are able to address issues before they become a problem.”

Repairing aging pipelines also allows the Town to pave more of its streets, Brown said. This year, two new roads were paved, she said.

“A number of the old section is an oiled surface road,” she said. “When we focus on doing roads we are actually putting pavement down instead of gravel.”

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