Kneehill Water distribution system

Indicative of strong municipal planning
Historically, it has been agriculture that springs to mind when thinking of Kneehill County, the municipal district in the heart of central Alberta. Oil and gas has also attracted industry to the progressive rural municipality which is home to just over 5,000 citizens. However, Kneehill County is garnering attention for its considerable municipal organization, strong fiscal management and vision of community sustainability for its multi-year infrastructure plan.
“We’re a 1,300 square mile farming community and, like most Alberta municipalities, we have quite a bit of oil and gas development,” says Kevin Miner, CAO of the Kneehill Regional Water Service Commission. “In this area, we have a bunch of coal-bed methane development. That kick-started us being able to afford to bring water out to the country.”
The Kneehill County council is currently in the final phase of completing a project to develop safe, reliable and assured supply of portable water at a reasonable cost for its residents with the WSA Gamble Rurual Distribution Line (WSA). “After extensive amounts of research and testing, we have found that there are quality and quantity issues with the wells in this area of Kneehill,” says Miner. Based on these results, the council set out to amend these issues with the county’s water.
Planning and policy development for the pro-ject commenced in 2004. Working closely with the provincial government, the council saw fit to divide the ambitious, $50 million project into four phases to better facilitate the “magnitude of servicing close to half of Kneehill County.” In addition, the four-phase strategy met criteria for government grant applications and allows contracts to be distributed to more companies.
Long-term focus
The council kept their focus on the long-term when designing the WSA. “When we model things, we don’t look at the best case scenario when we are looking at our finances,” says Miner. “Instead, the council designed the project considering ‘if things go poorly, what will it cost?’, so there isn’t that kick in the gut at the end.”
Phases of the project
Phase one of the WSA started two years ago when T.A. Excavating broke ground for an sub-ground reservoir near Carbon, Alberta which was completed by Tekton Construction Ltd.
According to Rob Mayhew, Director of Operations, “Grainger/Hesketh WSA (Phase 2) was tendered in the winter of 2008/2009 and construction commenced in May 2009. The contractor of the distribution line was Chinook Pipelines and this project also consisted of a reservoir, but above ground located close to Highway 21 North of Highway 9. This was tendered in the same winter and construction was completed by Trevcon Construction Ltd.”
Kneehill County saw phase three completed last summer. Kneehill contracted the services of Nu edge Construction for this segment of the WSA. “No reservoir construction was required for this WSA as we utilized the Kneehill Regional Water Service Commissions (KRWSC) reservoir building. Some upgrades were completed to the facility to accommodate our water line in this area. Upgrades to the reservoir are being completed by TriTech Construction,” says Mayhew.
Phase three was tendered in late 2009, with the seven month time line to be completed in November. Kneehill County is currently in the initial planning stages for the Sunnyslope WSA/Phase four and workers are actively routing as this goes article goes live. The SWA Council is anticipating construction of the fourth and final phase to begin in the spring of 2011. The timely completion of the previous stages leads everyone involved to believe it will be.
Enhancing values
The Kneehill Council’s decision to improve its infrastructure and basic amenities was done so in a way that stays true to the values held by the community, articulated by the council’s mission statement to “serve, enhance and promote.”  This was done both intentionally and decidedly. 
“Everything gets tied into our core values,” says Miner. “We want to treat everyone well, fairly and equitably. We like to give our staff a little more say in their jobs, so they can buy an ownership as generally it leads to better service. Overall we still produce long-term results.”
Miner is proud to contribute to his beloved county.  When asked what defines Kneehill, Miner responds unabashed: “agriculture.” 
“A lot of the communities around us are subdivisions that cut off a 10-acre parcel or bare land eight or nine acres. Here we try to keep them as small as possible. It’s a way to help preserve farmland; we are still very farmland friendly,” he continues.
Kneehill Council has worked assiduously to maintain the quality of life for Kneehill and by investing in the WSA Rural Water Distribution Line, they are guaranteeing the continued heritage of successful agriculture for the region for some time to come.