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Water Today Title May 18, 2022

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Café William

The City of Regina receives potable water from the Buffalo Pound
Water Treatment Plant, located approximately 60 km northwest of the City.

We sent Regina media, a series of email questions. The answers are below

WT: Can you describe the drinking water system in Regina, (distribution watermains, treatment plant, number of users, etc.) and the main challenges it faces?

 The City of Regina receives potable water from the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant (BPWTP), located approximately 60 km northwest of the City. The BPWTP is owned by the City of Regina and the City of Moose Jaw and is operated and maintained by the Buffalo Pound Water Administration Board. The facility provides potable water to the Cities of Regina and Moose Jaw as well as surrounding towns, villages, and rural customers.

Potable water is conveyed to the City of Regina from dedicated pumping systems located at the BPWTP via two transmission pipelines. The City has five (5) treated water storage reservoirs (Northwest, Pasqua, Albert St., 4th Avenue, and Tor Hill). The reservoirs provide storage for both domestic usage and fire protection. Potable water is supplied to the City’s vast distribution network by three (3) main pumping stations (North, Farrell and North Zone).

The City of Regina manages about 1,155 km of water distribution mains, about 30% of which were constructed 50 years ago, and provides water to approximately 75,000 users. Approximately 950 km (or 82%) of the water network consists of small diameter pipes (<= 400 mm). Small diameter water mains are dominated by asbestos cement (AC) (541 km, 57%), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) (389 km, 41%), and cast iron (CI) (4.7 km, 0.5%). The average age of the City’s water mains is 32 years, whereas 50% of the pipes have age between 13 and 47 years.

WT: What is the source of drinking water?

 Source water for the BPWTP is Buffalo Pound Lake (BPL). BPL is long, narrow, shallow, and rich in nutrients resulting in eutrophic conditions for most years. Most of BPL’s water comes from regular releases from the Qu’Appelle Dam at Lake Diefenbaker (LD) that travels through the Elbow Diversion Channel and Upper Qu’Appelle River (UQR) into BPL. The regular releases of good quality water from LD and subsequent releases from the BPL Dam keep water quality in BPL relatively good and stable. During wet years, low release volumes from LD and high volumes of water from the local and UQR watersheds result in poorer water quality in BPL.

 LD is a man-made reservoir on the South Saskatchewan River that gets its water from precipitation and snowmelt from the mountains in Alberta.

WT: Do the plants have any treatment for emerging contaminants such as PFAS, endocrine disrupters.

The BPWTP is required by the Water Security Agency (WSA) to monitor two regulated components of PFAS in treated water. Neither PFOS nor PFOA have ever been detected.

 Many chemicals, both natural and man-made, may mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones which are known as endocrine disrupters. The BPWTP is required by WSA to monitor its treated water for the most common man-made or anthropogenic contaminants that may be endocrine disrupters such as PFOS, PFOA, and common pesticides used in the province. In addition, the BPWTP does extensive monitoring of many anthropogenic contaminants (e.g., herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals) at various locations in its source water; beyond what is required by WSA. The source water monitoring includes LD, several locations along the UQR, and 3 locations in BPL. Results over the years consistently confirm that source water for the BPWTP is not contaminated with concerning levels of anthropogenic contaminants. In addition, LD, UQR, and BPL do not receive direct discharges from industrial or sewage facilities. Therefore, investing in treatment technologies specific to the removal of anthropogenic contaminants is unnecessary.

WT: With the increase in extreme weather events and flooding, what measures is Regina taking to protect its plants?

Proactive replacements of water mains and installation of flow meters at different locations to find and reduce water leakage. This work reduces the amount of water that needs to be treated at the plant and therefore lengthens the time the water in the reservoirs can be used.

The measures the BPWTP has taken to address the impacts of climate change are as follows:

  • Diesel-electric power generators have been installed at the lake pumping station and main treatment plant. The generators will supply electrical power to allow the plant to pump raw water from the lake, treat, and distribute potable water to the cities if grid power is disabled.
  • The cities and the BPWTP are about to embark on a significant renewal project that will incorporate advanced treatment technologies such as dissolved air flotation (DAF) clarification, ozonation, and biologically activated carbon (BAC). These technologies will result in effective treatment in even more pronounced eutrophic raw water conditions resulting from anticipated climate change than is currently experienced.
  • Monitoring of geologic stability of the ground along the valley slope above and around the pipelines that supply lake water to the main treatment plant. If instability of the ground is detected, appropriate measures will be taken to protect the pipelines.
  • Because the BPWTP is a major stakeholder within in the Nelson-Saskatchewan River Basin (NSRB), it has a partnership and collaborates with researchers at The Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). The area on Buffalo Pound Lake surrounding the WTPs intakes has been an NSRB monitoring location for the past 8 years. In December 2021, the BPWTP invested $260,000 to purchase an advanced remote sensing system called “Superbuoy” that was designed by Helen Baulch, PhD. of GIWS U of S to replace the previous system. As did its predecessor, Superbuoy will provide vital long- and short-term changes in weather and water quality conditions that benefit the researchers, plant operations, and plant management.

The Global Research Water Institute is the top water resources research institute in Canada and one of the most advanced hydrology research centres in the world and has many monitoring stations within the Nelson-Saskatchewan River Basin (NSRB). GIWS is dedicated to helping protect our precious freshwater resources needed for the world’s growing demand for sustainable food production, mitigating the risk of water-related disasters such as floods, droughts, and fires, and predicting and forecasting extremes of global change using advanced remote sensing and modeling techniques.

WT: Combined sewage overflows are a common problem in cities across Canada. What is the situation in Regina? What was the amount of CSO in recent years?

Regina only has three locations that have the potential for a combined sewage overflow. The rest of the city has two separate sewer systems. Combined sewer overflows are rare, in the last five years, there have been two events that lead to a CSO for a total of 5.3 megaliters of combined sewage and rainwater entering the environment from the events.

 WT: Lead connections are also a common problem, how many lead connections do you estimate there are in Regina? What is the city doing about it?

There are approximately 3,400 City-owned lead service connections. The City does not maintain records of the material used in the private side service connections. We estimate that 7,000 to 8,000 privately-owned lead service connections may remain.

 The City currently replaces the City-owned side of lead service connections when they break or during planned major road upgrades and they are also replaced during the re-development of an existing property, with a target to complete all City-owned lead service connection replacements in 15 years. The City also replaces a City-owned lead service connection when requested by a property owner, where the private portion of the water service connection is not lead.

 Starting in 2022, the City is mandating the private side lead line be replaced when the City side is replaced. To help finance the private side replacements, the City is providing residents with interest-free equalized payment options over 5 or 10 years.

 Residents with lead lines have access to a City-provided water filter or rebates up to $100 on an annual basis. The City also offers eligible residents two options for testing the water in their homes. 

WT: Are there other emerging issues you are looking into?

We are replacing about 10 km of water main each year to reduce water breaks and we are also building a new pumping station and reservoir in east Regina to improve water pressure and fire flow. This will also give us more water storage in City.

In 2022, the BPWTP initiated quarterly monitoring of its source and treated water for 46 individual PFAS in addition to PFOS and PFOA.