June 19, 2014 6:42 pm
Updated: June 20, 2014 7:15 am

A costly winter for the City of Saskatoon

Watch above: water main breaks last winter prove costly for the city

SASKATOON – Preliminary numbers are in and last winter was a costly one for the City of Saskatoon. Thursday, the city’s public works department confirmed that millions have been spent this year on water main breaks.

“From January 1st to May 31st of this year we’ve spent approximately $3.4 million of our $7.24 million budget,” said Trent Schmidt, acting director of public works for the City of Saskatoon.

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While the budget covers normal operating costs, the city forked out millions to fix broken water mains. During that time, 465 repairs were made which included service connection repairs, valve repairs and 203 water main break repairs at a cost of $11,000-$12,000 each.

“Just looking at water main breaks themselves we spent 42 per cent of our budget this year, whereas which was a very average year, no record numbers there we spent about 31 per cent of our water main budget last year at this same time at May 31,” said Schmidt.

More than $600,000 was spent hiring five private contractors to help deal with the breaks. Schmidt also confirmed $70,000 went to bottled water for residents and businesses whose water service was disrupted. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a banner year for breaks.

“Looking back through the last 18 years of history that we do have easily accessible on file, 1996 we had 269 water main breaks by May 31, this year we had 203 so not quite a record,” said Schmidt.

Cold spells that pushed frost at or below pipe level were the main causes for the water main breaks despite some criticism from residents who blamed aging infrastructure.

“The city’s trying to do the best we can with the money we have, we try and prioritize all the locations  that need to get replaced, we look at the worst places first to get repaired and we put the money and try to spend it the best we can,” said Schmidt.

Overall, 36 per cent of the city’s water and sewer budget has been spent, up six per cent from last year.

“It’s higher than normal, absolutely, do we have to make some tougher decisions as we go through the year to make sure we try and come as close to budget as possible absolutely. It really depends what happens, I don’t know what mother nature is going to bring us this fall or what breaks are going to come,” Schmidt added.

If public works ends the year over-budget, requests will be made to apply funding from the water and sewer stabilization reserve to cover costs. The department also plans to ask for a bigger budget next year.

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