How would Saskatoon handle a water crisis?
In the wake of the North Saskatchewan River oil spill, Mayor Don Atchison said the city is looking at how best to respond if put in the same situation as Prince Albert.
The northern Sask. city faced a water shortage after oil spilled from a Husky Energy pipeline into the North Saskatchewan River – the system it draws on for drinking water – on July 21.
Saskatoon also relies on a single source for drinking water, the South Saskatchewan River, with one notable difference.
“We have two different intakes already on the South Saskatchewan River, (for) which way the waters flow, so we can in fact use that already,” Atchison said Tuesday.
That would allow water to be taken in from areas unaffected by a chemical spill or other contaminant. Prince Albert currently has one intake, which is shut off until further notice.
Atchison said the city has also looked into the possibility of using wells in an emergency scenario, but added a pipeline connecting to a clean North Saskatchewan River would be a good security measure.
“A pipeline that would go from Saskatoon to Prince Albert, where the water could flow in either direction; those are all things that are possibilities, that need to be looked at,” he said.
Atchison said city administration regularly looks into developing strategies for these scenarios, but the extent of their work is determined by money.
“Then someone says, ‘Why would you spend all that money? You’re never going to use it,’” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s why we have a lot of these things that are put into place that you hope you’ll never have to use them, but they’re there just in case.”
On Tuesday, Prince Albert city manager Jim Toye welcomed Atchison’s pipeline idea.
“It’s something we would consider absolutely,” he said. “This really raises the bar as to when you’re just sole-sourced for your water, and you have a situation, how prepared are you.”
Progress made for P.A. drinking water
Temporary solutions are in place – and working – for Prince Albert’s water situation. Toye said the South Saskatchewan River line was “up and going” Monday night.
“We really have three sources of raw water – we have that storm retention pond, the Little Red River and now the South Saskatchewan River,” he said.
Water is still being trucked into surrounding rural areas. Toye said the city meets with local groups daily to discuss updates and future plans.
The province’s water security agency will decide when Prince Albert can turn on their intake for the North Saskatchewan River.
“We do have three solid sources for now and, of course, that is temporary. Our ultimate goal is to get back to normal – if you want to call it that – and getting our water from the North Saskatchewan,” he said.
Husky Energy, the company involved in the oil spill, along with the province and city have all taken water samples. Toye said the next step is bringing everyone to the table to verify and discuss the results of those tests.
Toye said the city is considering options such as infiltration wells as a solution to the water woes if cleanup efforts last long into the fall. He said there have already been discussions on how this would be done during the winter months.