Planners at city hall are preparing for what they call a ‘black swan’ event – or worst-case scenario – if Saskatoon’s only source for drinking water ever became contaminated.
Jeff Jorgenson, the general manager of transportation and utilities, said it’s something planners have been thinking about given what transpired in Prince Albert as a result of the Husky Energy oil spill.
The northern Saskatchewan city faced a water shortage after around 250,000 litres of oil spilled from a Husky pipeline into the North Saskatchewan River – the system it draws on for drinking water – on July 21.
It raises questions about how long the water supply would last in Saskatoon if the city found itself dealing with a similar situation. The city also relies on a single source for drinking water: the South Saskatchewan River.
Jorgenson said it would really depend on how responsive people were to water restrictions that would be put in place.
“We do have new reservoirs that have been recently constructed,” Jorgenson said Wednesday. “So we would be in a good position for a number of days, but definitively less than a week.”
A new report at the city committee level has planners looking at alternative water supplies, and Jorgenson said there’s nothing off the table.
“It could range from tying into aquifers very close to the city. Or it could be bringing in a pipeline from the North Saskatchewan River,” Jorgensen said.
There are, however, other situations that could create an emergency situation for the city. In the case of a drought, for example, tying into other lines might not work.
The city said it’s looking at a variety of options to deal with a worst-case scenario, and is pricing them out.
“The task at hand really is to look at all of the options, all of the scenarios, and come up with a plan or a strategy we would look at investigating further and perhaps implementing,” Jorgenson said.
That strategy could be implemented at early as 2017.
On Aug. 2, Mayor Don Atchison said Saskatoon is looking into the possibility of a permanent water pipeline between the city and Prince Albert.
The measure would allow water to flow in both directions, in case of emergency for either city.