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Water Works

168The tour started at the new Forest Lawn lift station – one of 35 lift stations that work unseen keeping – uh, things moving through the underground pipes of Calgary.
What we zeroed in on is pictured – the wild color keyed map built into the north wall showing the level of activity upstream and downstream of the station.
The project we were focused on is called Watershed Plus.
The object is to integrate art (and greater public consciousness) into the Calgary public water handling system.
1% of all capital projects in our pretty city is dedicated to incorporating art. What an informed stance! You may not know that all large privately built structures likewise are required to include public art – thereby gracing our urban landscape with elegant significant painting and sculpture. The effect? Making practical requirements beautiful!
In days gone by an artistic aspect graced nearly everything public. That’s why we love to visit great cities. Certainly not to view another Walmart!
Well shit flows downhill as we all know. So the next stop was the Bonnybrook treatment plant. There the artwork was versions of the helpful and other microrganisms that inhabit – and treat – waste water. These unseen guys are incredibly active and were mesmerizing to the Bee Kingdom glass art studio. Organisms like rotifer signal good things happening in the sludge working on the “raw material”. All this ensures that the 330000 litres of city generated wastewater treated/ minute are safely released into the Bow River.
The brown trout fishery below Calgary thus remains vibrant as the many fly fishers who haunt those reaches can attest.
Other aspects? Storm water outfalls into the main rivers – a matter of much greater scrutiny since the catastrophic flood of last year.
It was during that time that I realized [again!] that Canada really is under the radar. I was down in Colorado when Calgary was under water.
There was 0 coverage – Notwithstanding that more people were evacuated here than for hurricane Katrina!
There was enough water coming down the normally dinky elbow river to put the entire Mission and Belt line areas south of downtown under 2 meters of water! It would have been worse but for the upstream Glenmore reservoir having been drawn down to shave the peak flow – a once in 500 years flood.
Still the eastern edge of downtown was inundated and the Saddledome, our hockey arena, was full up to the 12th row.
Our heroic water treatment people were dealing with turbidity and volumes that were completely off every chart and still managed to keep our potable water glowing. Apparently we were within one power substation of water failure. Had it gone down that we would have been toast.
Latterly we have had an extensive underground fire downtown that took out power to half our buildings. Is the universe trying to tell us something?
The amazing – for once to use that word accurately! – feat is that our utility replaced large transformers and over 12 miles of fibre optic and power cable in under one week. It all came back up Thursday morning. Miracle?
The best evidence there could be of excellent contingency plans.
Contingency plans. You don’t need them! Until you do.
Now Enmax is having to face the deeper issue. How can a vital system like that be so vulnerable to a fire in one location. Where is the redundancy? Where were the fire measures? No halon?
So what have you done about action in the face of disaster, biz interruption, fire or even utility interruption? Think it’ll never happen to you? Really!
Is it worth your effort? Well it isn’t til it is. Thank god someone did it for us!

  • Tristan Surtees was our able guide and the brilliant new Esker Gallery were our organizers and hosts. Thanks!
  • 231 litres of water per citizen are used per day: down from 400 litres in the last 20 years
  • There are 12000 kms of underground water pipelines in our city
  • 33000 storm sewers inflows take care of surface water
  • The system treats 1 b litres of water per day, potable, and waste water – four Saddledomes worth

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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