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Water Today Title February 21, 2024

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Managing water for a rapidly growing population

WaterToday.ca Interview with Jeannie Gallant, P.Eng Town of Stratford, Prince Edward Island

WT: I don’t talk to many brand-new municipal entities in Canada. Your Town was created I think in 1995, I wanted to know, how’s it going, is there any glitches?

Jeannie Gallant: I have not been with the Town that long, I’ve only been with the Town the last four and a half years, but it’s going well. We are a relatively new system, so that helps to prevent any glitches. We are a fast-growing community, so that brings challenges in itself of course.

WT: I read on the site that a “growing portion” of the town is served by the water system. Does that mean that some of the town's population is not served? How is that being rectified, and how many houses is that approximately?

Gallant: We are very close to being fully serviced but there is a small area not serviced. We currently have a population of about eleven thousand, and we are estimating that about nine thousand to ninety-five hundred are serviced. (The others) are on their own private wells.

WT: Tell me about the system. The water filtration plant that you have right now, how does it work?

Gallant: Not a plant per se, we are serviced with groundwater. We have three separate well fields that we pump into one reservoir, a standpipe, that we have as part of our system. We have about 80 kilometres of distribution main throughout the town to service those properties that we do have servicing for.

WT: So, you are pumping groundwater into a central reservoir and then that goes through some sort of a plant, I would think?

Gallant: No, we just treat our groundwater with chlorine, that’s all that is required here. There is no treatment facility per se, just right through our pump stations and our well fields.

WT: I noticed from the Town website that there is a Sustainable Committee, I wondered if that is looking at effects of climate change coming up? Have you done a study, or have a study around climate change, what’s coming for your town?

Gallant: I can’t really speak to what the committee has taken on. There are a lot of water conservation programs. We recently implemented a water metering program throughout the town, installing water meters to conserve water. In terms of climate change, we are a growing town, we are growing quickly, and outgrowing the infrastructure. We are currently looking at twinning our standpipe. We are in need now of more supply, so we are looking at that.

WT: In terms of a rapidly expanding town, what are the challenges? When you talk about twinning, what does that mean? Can you tell us how much all of this might cost, I guess with water meters going in, this has something to do with coming costs?

Gallant: Absolutely. The water meter program was implemented in 2018, so that was a capital project that was approved by our Council at that time. It was a substantial project, but we have seen a big difference in conservation since then, so it’s doing what we wanted it to do, and hoped it would do. 

The reservoir that we have in place was constructed in 2001, and we’ve doubled our population since then. I guess we were aware at the time that we would need to expand on that, given the population that we may get to at some point in time. 

So we are there now, we are seeing the quick turnover in the reservoir and we’re also lacking some commercial fire protection flows that are required to meet standards. We are adding the reservoir to ensure we’re able to provide for future growth, but also to be able to provide those commercial areas with the fire protection they need.

WT: When you talk about reservoirs, is this something like you dig a big hole and you run the groundwater into that?

Gallant: No, we are throwing terms around, reservoir maybe isn’t the one. It’s a standpipe, is what it is more commonly known as. It’s a tower that holds water.

WT: So there is a tower. You were saying you are doing grey water recycling systems, or am I misunderstanding?

Gallant: No, it’s not a recycling system. The tower is holding water and provides the pressure through the system and also allows for fire protection.

WT: Do you have existing programs where people can collect grey-water, rainwater this kind of thing and get a reward? Or is it, “come and get your barrel, good luck with that”?

Gallant: We have run programs where we have provided the rain barrel, absolutely, as part of that conservation program. Beyond that, I don’t believe we have anything else in place for recycling or recapturing that grey water.

WT: So there are no rules around washing a car, or anything like that, with the system being a little stressed at the moment, is that also correct?

Gallant: If we get to a point, knock on wood, where we are seeing a very dry summer, a drought or something like that, it’s common here on the island to post cautionary measures or restrictions. We’ve been able to manage that very well here. We would indeed have restrictions if we needed to, for limiting or not allowing washing cars or washing down driveways, things like that.

WY: Something we have learned across the country, whether it’s Toronto or a small town, there is a definite shortage of trained water operators. Have you noticed that in your end of the world as well?

Gallant: We’ve been fortunate here, we’ve got long-term employees that we value, and we have employees that we are training up, so it hasn’t affected us to date. We are hoping to stay that way.

WT: Does your town outright own the water system, or is it a third party like Veolia?

Gallant: Yes, Stratford Utility Corporation is under the Town itself.

WT: Can you tell us about your groundwater aquifer, the attributes of the aquifer, depth of your wells? Do have any heavy metals, or iron in your water?

Gallant: I would have to look the (aquifer) information up. Iron is always present, dominant here in PEI. Everything is monitored through the provincial regulations; everything is meeting standards.

WT: That’s incredible. I don’t hear this every day, the water is that pristine, is it?

Gallant: It is very good groundwater, yes.

WT: Is there a message you would like to get across around water, anything else you want to say?

Gallant: I just want to stress the fact that everybody needs to be aware, of what we are using the water for, where it's wasted, be aware of leaks, and encourage people to conserve where they can.

WT: That’s great. Thanks for doing this, have a great day.

noun stand· pipe | \ 'stan (d)-?pip \ Definition of standpipe : a high vertical pipe or reservoir that is used to secure a uniform pressure in a water-supply system. Merriam Webster