County of Stettler

A water master plan for the masses

In the words of Leonardo da Vinci, “Water is the driver of Nature,” and in the County of Stettler, Alberta, there is a new rural water master plan in place to deliver and distribute the resource to residents throughout the area; The County of Stettler Regional Water Project.

“We are also involved in a Regional Water Services Commission line in the southeast part of Stettler, with the County of Starland, the Starland-Stettler Regional Water Services Commission,” Tim Fox, CAO for Stettler County says.

“We also are also involved in and Shirley McClellan Regional Water Services Commission that was just commissioned last year, so there are three parts [to this project].”

Fox says that Stettler County has been working tirelessly to get potable water to its ratepayers and bordering county partners. He administrates Stettler’s water distribution as well as the Shirley McClellan Regional Water Services Commission line; a 146 kilometre line. Now following five years of hard work, the project has finally come to fruition. CBJ spoke with Fox about what it takes to put in place this new water master plan, what it will mean for the residents of Stettler and what future developments could be in store as the new system is considered for growth.

The master plan works

According to Fox, Stettler now has its two major regional water commission lines installed in the ground and has finalized exactly where it will be providing water to within the plan—the 16 municipal members of the Shirley McClellan Regional Water Services Commission.

“We are providing water to a number of those communities immediately. That also gives us the ability to provide rural water distribution to our ratepayers within the areas and the county of Stettler,” he explains.

“It was funded by the province in the Water for Life strategy. It was a combination of timing that allowed us to move forward with this opportunity.” Financing has come from the Building Canada fund; a body comprised of one-third federal government, one-third provincial government and one-third county funding. Fox says this funding has enabled Stettler County to commence with the rural distribution at a cost of 9 million for the first two phases in the county.

“Shirley McClellan Regional Water Services Commission line is one the largest projects, regional water services commission lines in Alberta, purchasing the water from the Town of Stettler, which has a water treatment plant on Red Deer River with a 65 million dollar price tag,” he continues.

“It’s now completed and supplying water. It covers a large area that also services communities west of Stettler in the County of Lacombe “Highway 12-21 Regional Water Services Commission.”

It will also cover this large area for a long time. The project is designed for 20-year growth and Fox says Stettler is expecting 1.5 to two per cent growth over the next two years.

“We have a huge window to carry this into the future and I guess if we had to face the fact we would need to twin the lines and that would be a good thing, because we are providing the water that was intended for and future growth,” he says.

It becomes clear that the years spent crafting and honing the project as it works towards fruition today, has allowed the Stettler team to plan far ahead and meet the county’s water needs today whilst preparing for tomorrow.

A project turning point

As with any large infrastructural project, Fox says there have been challenges, but as work has progressed there was one point in particular where Stettler turned a corner and it appeared that the county was in for plain sailing ahead.

“We felt that once the approvals were received from the province for the regional water lines and from the provincial and federal government for our rural water distribution, things have gone ahead quite smoothly,” Fox explains.

“The installation of the line was kind of unique where the County of Stettler, County of Paintearth and Special Areas  purchased an abandoned railway [line] about 10 years ago where they took the tracks out and we purchased it for our own future use.” This land purchase proved key, and Fox says that Stettler was able to able to install the Shirley McClellan line on that rail band, thus avoiding many of the typical challenges which can arise in dealing with a local landowners and private interests.

“It made quite a significant difference, as well as decrease in cost. Our budget came in probably five to eight per cent below our targeted price,” Fox recalls. “We thought we had good pricing and good contractors. We were able to put this together without too many hiccups.”

It is clear that Stettler County’s forward-thinking approach to everything from project land acquisition, to developing working relationships, to taking advantage of opportunities as they appear shows no signs of slowing. Today, Stettler continues to bring the project to completion whilst considering how it might be further improved upon when another moment of opportunity presents itself in the future.

“We are excited by the opportunity to be associated with all three projects. Eventually our goal is to combine all this into one large regional water services division,” Fox says.

And if Stettler’s track record of success with its current project is anything to go by, it won’t be long before we revisit this pioneering bunch to find out what they are working on next. If one thing is for sure, you can bet that whatever the next project is, Stettler County will accomplish it.