Rural communities near Prince Albert, Sask., want to turn the taps on a $45 million water project.
The Town of Shellbrook and the RM of Shellbrook have struck a steering committee with the Prince Albert Rural Water Utility (PARWU), spending $60,000 on studying a new water treatment plant with connecting pipelines to the communities, according to its terms of reference.
“I really believe that building a water treatment plant will open the door to other communities to get good water,” noted Brent Miller, who is the steering committee chair and a Town of Shellbrook councillor.
The $45 million project aims to build a PARWU water treatment plant on the North Saskatchewan River to serve rural communities in the area by pipeline. It builds on a similar 2018 project, which PARWU abandoned as unviable.
Miller said it will be more feasible with the support of the town looking to improve its water quality, and the RM’s interest in connecting to a potential pipeline. As a regional project, he hopes it gets provincial and federal funding, noting Government Relations Minister Don McMorris expressed interest.
Miller aims to see the first phase of the project, which includes feasibility and economic viability studies, completed by the end of the month. The town has set aside $7.8 million to upgrade its water infrastructure, but Miller said the project could save $7 million on those costs while meeting its water quality needs and expanding its firefighting water capacity.
He said the project and the town’s wells could be used together to offer redundancy. If successful, he wants it completed within a little over three years.
Building a water treatment plant could help municipalities and property owners facing limited water access — a common issue in rural areas like his, Miller said.
Colin Sheldon, a PARWU board member and an RM of Prince Albert councillor, said he knows the benefit of a water connection — his family dairy farm “wore trucks out hauling water down the road” for roughly 50 years.
In the last three decades, similar projects have been successful in other areas across Saskatchewan, he said, adding that he expects the project to benefit property values and farmers.
The town wants to grow, but can’t create new residential lots until it increases its water capacity, Mayor Amund Otterson said.
Shellbrook’s well water is safe, but extremely hard and difficult to treat; guests like visiting hockey teams tend to comment on its “funny taste,” Otterson said.
The project could also benefit other communities that previously bought water from the City of Prince Albert through PARWU, he added.
“It’s a cliché, but water’s pretty vital.”