Northern Sunrise County

A toast to Northern Sunrise County and partners’ new Regional Water System

Residents of the Northern Sunrise region will be receiving drinking water from their new water treatment plant within weeks. The Northern Alberta communities of Northern Sunrise County (NSC), the Village of Nampa, and Woodland Cree First Nation (WCFN) have formed a collaborative partnership (NEW Water Ltd.) to meet the future water needs of their communities on a regional basis. Phase One of Northern Sunrise County’s highly anticipated new regional water system will be completed by September with the official opening being held in October.

The $45 million project is making a huge splash for its innovative and ambitious design which is leaps and bounds beyond the standard environmental and sustainable measures. The project will deliver safe and reliable drinking water to the surrounding communities, hamlets, Village of Nampa and Woodland Cree First Nation communities in the region.

Leading the way

The plant, located in Northern Sunrise County, near Peace River, Alberta is historic for being the first water treatment plant in the province to strive for LEED Silver certification. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and sets the standard as far as these initiatives go).

The LEED® rating system, the Green GlobesTM rating system, and the Living Building ChallengeTM all provide tools to guide sustainable design, albeit, specifically for buildings.  The key benefits of these formal processes are that they provide design guidance, offer third-party verification, and set industry standards.  Associated Engineering has LEED® Accredited Professionals in offices across Canada, who are familiar with these rating systems,  and work with communities to establish their goals of being certified either silver, gold, or platinum.

Environmental benefits

The treatment plant’s environmental improvements are many and varied. For one, it will take up less land. Additionally, it will have storm water management to control runoff, drought-tolerant landscaping, water efficient plumbing fixtures, 58 per cent energy reduction (compared to Model National Energy Code for Building (MNECB)), solar wall pre-heat air ventilation system, and energy efficient lighting.  

According to the project managers, the design also incorporates peak period load-shaving to reduce electrical costs, high R-value building envelope, daylighting, local and recycled content in construction material, low VOC paint/sealant, and improved thermal control and comfort. Completion of this project is scheduled for September 2010.

“Although sustainable design initiatives may at times come at a premium, the payback period, or life-cycle cost savings, is often positive,” says Bob Miles, Chief Administrative Officer for the region.

“By implementing sustainable design, building owners can expect reduced operation and maintenance costs,  in addition to the environmental benefits,” he continues.  

According to Blair Birch, Senior Specialist for Regional Infrastructure, the precipitating factor to building the new plant was a previous issue with source water sustainability that was feeding into an outdated plant. “The two plants serving the region had issues with source water sustainability, quality and quantity. Peace River was chosen for this site because it is near the most sustainable source in the region  in terms of water. Associated Engineering has extensive experience conducting life-cycle cost analyses for building systems, and can recommend decisions on sustainable design measures based on a triple bottom line approach,” he says.

Exemplary partnership

Miles believes that the project is exemplary for being a partnership between Shell municipal governments and Woodland Cree First Nation.  “The partnership is quite proud of the project, it is the first in this area of its kind,” he says. As such, he is proud for it to be shown off. “This state-of-the-art plant will have a number of public tours. Series of display boards and brochures  will make info available for as many people who want to come and look as possible.”

For small water and wastewater projects where personnel resources or budget may not be available for formal LEED certification, or there are insufficient opportunities for credits required for LEED certification, an informal approach to sustainable design may be feasible, economical and very beneficial. Informal processes may better help to identify and capture opportunities that may have otherwise been missed.  

Next steps

The second phase of the project will see the pipe-line continue south to the Village of Nampa and is hoped to be completed next year. In total, the treatment plant will serve 3,500 residents, proving to other municipal jurisdictions that environmental stewardship is a domain not only reserved for larger cities.