Canadian city faces $435m upgrade to water infrastructure in 15 years

The city of Greater Sudbury in Canada is facing a massive bill to renovate and upgrade its water network within the next 15 years.

According to a recent testimony delivered to the City Council, the cost of the works could rise to anywhere from C$76 million to C$435 million (€52.4m to €304.3m), the Sudbury Star reports.

The cheaper option would include keeping the city’s current wells, installing a new water main for the Wanapitei Lake water treatment plant (WTP), and upgrading a pump station within the city.

The more expensive alternative would see the city build an entirely new WTP at Wanapitei and discontinue the pump station and current wells, while still building the new water main.

Currently, two water treatment plants and 24 wells provide water to the city’s more than 940km of pipe.

According to Michelle Albert, director of water and wastewater operations at WSP Canada, some areas of the city have ample water flow, but others will need additional water services by 2035.

The Vermillion water treatment plant, which is owned by Vale, is sufficient until at least 2041.

“The city is in constant communication with Vale regarding their water supply requirements and they are looking at other water supply options,” Albert said.

“The relationship between Vale and the city is very good and there is no reason to expect that relationship won’t continue in the future.”

She suggested the City Council carry out a study into the current water needs in the area and evaluating if the current wells can fulfill them in the future.

Should there be concerns of a shortage, Albert recommended building the new WTP at Wanapitei despite the higher cost.

“This requires a series of infrastructure upgrades, not just the plant itself,” she said. “Although optimising Valley [district] wells is the preferred solution, it requires validation through future studies. And there is a tipping point. Planning for a new plant must start by 2027 at the latest.”

Problems piling up

But the flow of water into the city is not the only concern in Sudbury, and problems threaten to raise their heads also with water storage and leaking equipment.

In terms of water storage, the nearby town of Falconbridge will need new vessels to store water by 2021, while containers in Sudbury itself have until 2032.

There are major issues with leakage in parts of the city, where up to 47% of water is lost.

“You would detect the leakage source and then do leak management activities,” Albert said of a recommendation she made to council previously. “Leak detection is acoustic devices and a district metre area study.”

The city projects that it could spend as much as C$82 million in 2021 to revamp its water infrastructure, with another $11 million five years later.

However, in 2031, another $99 million would have to be spent to make sure the system stays up-to-date.