Tag Archives: Alberta

Is Alberta well water safe to drink?

The following article was featured in the Mar/Apr WaterCanada magazine issue: “One Health” – Alberta researchers collaborate to better understand potential microbial hazards in rural drinking water. By Sylvia Checkley

Image result for waterborne pathogens in rural AlbertaResearchers from the University of Calgary and University of Alberta in collaboration with Alberta’s Provincial Laboratory for Public Health (ProvLab), Alberta Health Services, and FoodNet Canada will be using a “one health” lens to assess water quality and waterborne pathogens in rural Alberta. The “one health” approach recognizes that the health of people, animals, and the environment are all intrinsically linked.

  When bacteria like E. coli contaminates our water supply, it can greatly affect human, animal, and environmental health. Approximately 450,000 Albertans depend on private wells (or water systems) as a source for drinking water. Twenty to 40 per cent of these water systems fall short of current drinking water quality standards, as outlined in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. Guidelines recommend that private systems should be tested two to four times per year for microbial water quality, depending on type and treatment; however, testing is voluntary. A well water survey in Alberta published in 2010 indicated that only about 60 per cent of Albertans will test their water over a five year period. Most rural residents rarely or never test their water quality despite this service being offered at no cost to the well owner.
CATTLEWe know that there are disease causing agents such as bacteria and viruses from human septic systems, animal waste from livestock and wildlife, and other environmental microbial contaminants that can contaminate rural ground. The factors that influence the possibility of microbes contaminating a well water supply are many and varied, but important factors include climatic conditions, local soil, and aquifer properties; well characteristics such as type, depth, condition, and age of the well; age of the septic system; manure storage; and livestock housed on property in last 12 months.

  The public health authority currently looks at water quality indicators to determine if the water is safe. Currently, total coliforms (any bacteria in the coliform family) and E. coli are used as indicators of fecal contamination in a water supply. An E. coli or total coliform positive water sample is considered abnormal and is brought to the attention of the public health authority so they can discuss the results with the home owner and recommend appropriate actions such as well shock chlorination and resampling. Research has shown that drinking untreated or improperly treated groundwater can be associated with the transmission of disease causing agents. When untreated groundwater is used for irrigation, it can also be a threat to food safety especially through fruits and vegetables which might be eaten raw. Monitoring E. coli and total coliforms in drinking water based on current microbiological standards does not provide a reliable assessment of risk related to viral pathogens in the water systems. ( In depth information : http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Ge-Hy/Human-Health-and-Water.html)  This issue has been Image result for Alberta groundwater quality assessment guidelinepreviously identified by Health Canada (Guideline for Canadian Drinking Water Quality) and the Alberta groundwater quality assessment guideline. They also may not be good indicators for other disease causing organisms.
  This project, funded by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency and Alberta Innovates Environment and Energy Solutions, as well as FoodNet Canada, brings together professionals from different disciplines such as economists, engineers, environmental health officers, epidemiologists, microbiologists, physicians, veterinarians, and virologists to provide a robust assessment and interpretation of different aspects of well water quality. We are collaborating at local, provincial, and national levels to understand, manage and inform risk mitigation at the animal-human-environment interface. Stakeholders will be engaged throughout the process. Our partner, FoodNet Canada, is a federal program that uses a comprehensive surveillance at sentinel sites across Canada to reduce the burden of gastrointestinal disease in people. The newest surveillance site will be located in Alberta.
  This project has been developed to describe the patterns of disease causing E. coli and other bacteria, viruses, and antimicrobial resistant organisms in well water across Alberta, both seasonally and annually. We will be able to compare the traditional water quality indicators to newer monitoring methods looking directly for disease causing agents through molecular and other means. This will tell us how well the indicators work and provide evidence to support future changes to testing protocols. The study results will be applied to assess if there are associations between well water contamination and well characteristics, land use (septic systems, manure storage), environmental (climatic, geologic) and animal husbandry risk factors using our broad team’s expertise in this “one health” approach.
  Image result for Alberta livestock producers associationWe will also examine livestock producers’ perceptions of water quality, water contamination, and the influence of their perceptions on the management practices they choose that prevent
water contamination by animal waste. Engaging stakeholders in the process will help to provide robust evidence-based information that will be used to inform rural water users, livestock producers, decision makers, and the general public on the implications for human, animal, and environmental health.
CHECKLEY CROPPEDSylvia Checkley is an assistant
professor in ecosystem and public
health in the Faculty of Veterinary
Medicine at the University of
Calgary. She is also a program
lead in environmental surveillance at the Alberta
Provincial Laboratory for Public Health

 

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Oil and Gas Versus Nature

SASK OIL AND GAS

Water Under Pressure ~ Navigating competing demands between agriculture and natural resource development, by Chad Eggerman appeared in watercanada’s July/Aug, 2014 issue.

SASK AGRICULTURE LOGOSaskatchewan’s economy has been growing at a feverish pace the past few years on the pillars of agriculture, mining, and oil-and-gas SASK ECONOMYdevelopment. Although growth has recently settled at more
sustainable levels, recent discussion in the province has centered around how to
best use water resources in future development. This is an ongoing discussion in jurisdictions in Canada where both agriculture and natural resource development coexist, most prominently British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. The agriculture sector is traditionally the largest user of water in Saskatchewan, particularly for irrigation in the West Central region of DIEF LAKEthe province around Lake Diefenbaker. By some estimates, there is the potential to expand as much as 500,000 additional acres of land to irrigation around the lake. The Government of Saskatchewan views this expansion as a major opportunity for economic growth and to attract investment. There are a number SASK IRRIGATION LOGOof irrigation districts in Saskatchewan that are administered by the Ministry of Agriculture under The Irrigation Act, 1996. Saskatchewan has been mining natural resources for many years but recent multibillion-dollar expansions and greenfield projects have raised Wollaston Lake uranium minesthe profile of mining in the province. The most established resources are uranium in the north and potash in the south. The potash-producing region in Saskatchewan directly overlaps prime agricultural land as well as considerable oil-and-gas reserves. SASK MININGThere are two methods to mine potash: solution mining and conventional shaft mining.

The solution-mining process involves the construction of a well field composed of at least two drill holes—one to send hot water down to the potash-bearing zones of rock, and another to bring the potash-laden brine up to the surface after percolating in an underground katepwa_lakecavern. Solution mining uses vast quantities of water. Currently, Vale proposes to build a 70-kilometre water pipeline to Katepwa Lake in the Qu’Appelle Valley to pump more than 40 million litres per day for their Kronau project (the equivalent of 15 KRONAU PROJECTOlympic-sized swimming pools). K+S Potash Canada is currently building a new solution potash mine and is planning on using up to 60 K S POTASHmillion litres of water per day. Different regulations in Saskatchewan apply depending on whether the water comes from the surface or the ground, the type of mining (for potash, solution or conventional), and the location (uranium in the north is regulated differently than potash in the south). The oil-and-gas industry in Saskatchewan OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhas experienced rapid growth recently due largely to continued expansion of the use of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), which involves pumping pressurized
water underground to fracture rock to extract oil or gas. There were 3,200 horizontally fracked wells sunk in Saskatchewan from 1990 to 2013. On average, there are about 3,000 new oil HORIZONTAL VERSUS FRACTUREwells (both vertical and horizontal) drilled in Saskatchewan each year. Any fresh water to be used in Saskatchewan for fracking is subject to appropriate approvals from various provincial water agencies.  Residual fracking fluids are recycled and disposed of at provincially approved waste processing facilities or stored. The discharge or storage of used fluids into the surface environment is prohibited in Saskatchewan. The risk of water availability for farmers, miners, and oil-and-gas companies is becoming evident. Water supply agreements between miners and water suppliers, like SaskWater or a SASK WATERmunicipality, are becoming increasingly difficult to negotiate. The water supply agreement is a critical agreement to provide a certain amount of water at a set price. There are very significant risks for potash solution mines, which use water to operate if water supply is curtailed or discontinued. Oil companies are having to travel further and pay more for water for fracking. Intensive livestock and increased spraying (which uses fresh water) in Saskatchewan are also putting pressure on water supplies. There are a number of innovative projects in the province to mitigate these risks. Oil-and-gas companies are starting to use treated wastewater for their fracking operations. SELLING WASTEWATERMunicipalities in Alberta and Saskatchewan are now selling treated wastewater to oil companies. The treated wastewater can come from lagoons or from grey water discharge. This is a new revenue stream for municipalities and increases WESTERN POTASH LOGOthe certainty of water supply for oil-and-gas companies. Western Potash Corp.’s new potash mine in Milestone, Saskatchewan recently received environmental REGINAassessment approval for the facility, including the use of City of Regina treated effluent as the industrial water source for its solution mining process. The water is purified to prevent foaming or scaling. This is the first potash mine in the world to use treated water. CANADA MAPIt is expected the discussion between farmers and extractors of natural resources will continue in Saskatchewan and across Canada, with innovative technologies and agreements providing a way forward.

CHAD EGGERMANChad Eggerman is a partner in the Saskatoon office of Miller Thomson LLP and assists owners and contractors to develop projects in the natural resource industry

 

Hayley Todesco, Calgary Alta, wins Stockholm Water Prize

Hayley Todesco, 18, spent two years developing filters that use sand and bacteria to de-toxify oilsands tailings. Much of her work was done in the lab of University of Calgary professor Lisa Gieg, who provided the bacteria and the tailings.

Part 2 ~ “Hayley Todesco wins Google Science Fair”. Please see last Friday’s blog for Part 1 

~ The following article was posted on worldwaterweek.org, Sept. 3, 2014

VICTORIA HANDS ‘JUNIOR WATER PRIZE’ TO CANADIAN

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the v to Hayley Todesco from Canada for inventing a method that uses sand filters to treat oil contaminated water and recover water for reuse.The award ceremony Wednesday was part of the World Water Week in Stockholm.

Waterprijs

The winning entry is a new application of an old water treatment technology that dates back to 1804.  Sand filters have traditionally been used to treat drinking water, however Hayley Todesco   used slow sand filters on contaminated water in oil sands tailing ponds instead… “This year’s winning project addresses a neglected but pressing environmental issue. The entry displays genuine outside the box thinking. Hundreds of hours of self-driven effort achieved a project that excelled in all judging criteria,” the Jury said in its citation. 

“I am shocked but so grateful. I got the idea of using sand filters from a pen pal in Namibia two years ago, and started testing them on wastewater in a tank at home. Now I have just started studying to become a microbiologist and I hope to spend a great deal of time in the lab to continue developing the method”, Hayley Todesco said.

About Stockholm Junior Water Prize

The competition is open to young people between the age of 15 and 20 who have conducted water-related projects at local, regional, national or global levels on topics of environmental, scientific, social and/or technological importance. The aim of the competition is to increase awareness, interest and knowledge of water and the environment. As of this year the board of SIWI has decided to increase the prize sum to the winners and also to institute a new prize. The international winner will from now on receive a USD 15,000 award and a prize sculpture, the winner’s school receives USD 5,000 (new category)…

Hayley Todesco wins Canadian Google Science Fair

Part 1 of  2,  Calgary’s Hayley Todesco wins Canadian Google Science Fair prize

The following excerpt is from, “Filters made from sand and bacteria clean toxic oilsands tailings 14 times faster” posted to CBC News, July 11, 2014, by Emily Chung.

Hayley Todesco, 18, spent two years developing filters that use sand and bacteria to de-toxify oilsands tailings. Much of her work was done in the lab of University of Calgary professor Lisa Gieg, who provided the bacteria and the tailings.

A young woman from Calgary has invented a faster way to clean up toxic waste generated by oilsands extraction, using filters made from sand and bacteria. The new technology has made Hayley Todesco, 18, the Google Science Fair’s regional winner for Canada, Google announced in a news release this week…Todesco says that based on her research, her technique could break down toxic compounds found in oilsands tailings 14 times more quickly than letting them sit, stored in tailings ponds as they mainly are now.

“The significance of these results is the discovery of a sustainable way to decrease the detoxification of tailings ponds from centuries to decades,” she wrote in a summary posted on the Google Science Fair website.

Watch Hayley Todesco’s video about her project Tailings ponds occupied about 176 square kilometres in 2010 or roughly the area of B.C.’s Saltspring Island, according to the environmental think-tank the Pembina Institute. That area is expected to grow to 250 square kilometres by 2020…

Todesco said that having been born and raised in Alberta, she was very aware of this pollution problem. She was trying to think of a science fair project that would help solve it, when she thought back to a demonstration in her Grade 5 class. The class had been raising money to send filters to Africa for drinking water, and a guest speaker helped the students make some from pop bottles and sand. “We put muddy water in the top and it came out totally clean,” Todesco said. When she remembered that, she added, “That’s kind of when I had my eureka moment.”

li-syncrude-620-cp301940A tailings pond reflects the Syncrude oilsands mine facility near Fort McMurray. Such ponds of toxic waste are expected to cover 250 square kilometres by 2020. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Todesco was also interested in biology and bioreactors that use bacteria to break down waste, so she decided to make a bioreactor that incorporated sand, similar to devices invented to clean European sewage in the 19th century. Todesco wanted it to break down naphthenic acid, a major toxic component of oilsands tailings…Lisa Gieg, an assistant professor in biological sciences at the university, agreed to let Todesco work in her lab with the bacteria and tailings they had already collected. Because it was a biology lab, they didn’t have much in the way of supplies for building filters, but they did offer her some tubing…Todesco then began work designing the filters, using aquarium sand, empty IV bags, and other materials she picked up at hardware and dollar stores. Initially, to speed things up, she hooked her system up to a fountain pump from Home Depot, which promptly caused it to overflow…“A few months of work was basically ruined when I turned it on,” she said. “Building and engineering was definitely the hardest part.”

It took her seven months and about 120 tries with different designs to get a working system, which relied on gravity to pull oilsands tailings through sand topped with a film of bacteria in IV bags. In all, it took two years to complete the project, including the experiment and the analysis – she checked naphthenic acid levels in about 100 samples using the lab’s gas chromatograph. Each sample was prepared for analysis in an hour-long procedure that included several minutes of vigorous shaking…In addition to going into the lab for three or four hours after school, she spent her March Breaks there and also missed lots of her Grade 12 classes at Queen Elizabeth Junior Senior High School, which her teachers later allowed her to make up. So it was with much anticipation that she stayed up late to see if her efforts and labour would get recognized by the Google Science Fair regional judges. The regional winners were quietly disclosed online at 1 a.m. ET on June 26.

“I like freaked out and woke my sister up and it was great,” Todesco said. “This is really the height of my recognition for all the work that I’ve done.”

The global finalists will be announced Aug. 6, and will have a chance to compete for prizes including a $50,000 scholarship, a trip to the Virgin Galactic spaceport and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Hayley TodescoHayley Todesco
Hayley Todesco, 18, has just finished Grade 12 at Queen Elizabeth Junior/Senior High School in Calgary. (Courtesy of Google)

WATER DROPLET1_FOR BLOG ICONPlease see our followup blog next Friday ~ “Hayley Todesco, Calgary Alta, wins Stockholm Water Prize”

Blue City (Water Sustainable) of the future

1-BLUE CITY

The following excerpt,Blue City – What does the water sustainable city of the future look like?”, by Kirk Stinchcombe, Louise Brennan, and Jenn Willoughby is from WaterCanada Magazine, March/April 2014 issue

… Embedded in the phrase Water Sustainable City of the Near Future are four concepts:
• By city we mean a municipal environment of any size. We tend to think specifically of Canadian cities, but many of the insights would apply anywhere.
• By sustainable, we mean the capacity to endure. This includes biological systems that remain diverse and productive over time. It also implies the potential for long-term maintenance of human well-being. We think broadly and include ecological, community, and financial aspects.
• By water, we mean drinking water, storm water and waste water. We think of water quality, quantity, and availability.
• By near future, we think along variable time frames.
Some aspects of water sustainability are attainable within
as few as five years. Changes that are more difficult could
take perhaps 20 years to realize. Still others, such as
replacement of major infrastructure, may take more time…

Eight Blue City Case Studies.
Blue City is an attainable place. Many of its exemplary
characteristics are found in real cities across Canada and
around the world. The full report contains eight case
studies that describe various aspects of a water sustainable
urban environment.
ATRIUM1. Building Design (City of Victoria, British Columbia)
The Atrium Building is a seven-storey, 204,000-squarefoot retail and office building at the edge of downtown Victoria. It is a multi-award winning project with acclaimed stormwater innovations.
OKATAKS2.  Water in Decision-Making (Okotoks, Alberta)
Okotoks is a town of 24,511, located just south of
Calgary. The town has an innovative relationship
between bylaws and incentive programs to encourage continuous improvements in water conservation.
3. Blue Built Program (Guelph, Ontario)BLUE BUILT
The City of Guelph administers a certification program that provides rebates for new homes that meet an approved set of water-efficient standards, ranging from faucet aerators to rainwater harvesting systems.
4. Conservation-Oriented Pricing (Seattle)SEATTLE
Seattle Public Utilities has charged rates based on
volume for decades and has been fully metered since
1920. In 1989, it was among the first in North America to introduce seasonal surcharges.
GREEN ROOF5. Developer Incentives (Chicago)
The Green Permit Program offers progressive developers an expedited permitting process and other incentives in exchange for incorporating items from a “Green Menu” of strategies and technologies in their projects.
EPCOR6. Performance-Based Regulation (Edmonton, Alberta)
Since 2002, the City of Edmonton and EPCOR Water Services have operated according to performance based regulations, a mechanism that prevents overspending, defines expectations, and lays out
penalties in the case of under performance.
HALIFAX7. Utility Performance Measurement (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Halifax Water is the first regulated water, wastewater, and stormwater utility in Canada. Its pressure and
leakage management program has resulted in annual
savings in operating costs of $600,000.
AUSTRALIA8. Source Substitution (Australia)
Pimpama-Coomera is a large greenfield development located on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.
It has a dedicated Class A+ recycled water treatment plant and entirely separate pipe system to supply homes and businesses in the area with water suitable
for toilet flushing and garden irrigation…
Blue City offers a vision of a place where water is visible and valued, recognized as integral to the community’s economic, social, and environmental well-being…

Areas for Action
The water leaders interviewed in Blue City identified four priority areas for action: 
1 Financial Responsibility:
Sustainable utilities focus on levels of service, develop asset management plans, and embrace life-cycle costing.
In pricing services, utilities aim for full-cost recovery and structure their rates to influence behaviours.
2 Progressive Regulation and Governance:
Progressive regulations and incentivebased programs complement each other in driving performance and ultimately achieving water
sustainability goals. A well-designed utility governance structure facilitates information flow and achieves resource efficiencies.
3 Customer-Oriented Information:
Utilities measure their performance. This facilitates transparent reporting and informs planning processes. In a sustainable
city, information is shared, integrated, and audience-specific.
4 Cutting-Edge Technology:
Transformative utilities figure out how to incorporate technology
that makes source separation economically viable. Sustainable
cities have infrastructure that maintains the natural environment
and minimizes the impact of activities on native ecosystems…

The idea at the heart of the report is that the decisions
we make today will determine what the city looks like in
five, 10, and even 100 years. With a shared vision in place, taking small, frequent steps is possible. Together, we can navigate diversity and complexity, and ultimately move a real city toward a better future.
AUTHORS

Kirk Stinchcombe and Louise Brennan are Sustainability Specialists at Econics. Jenn Willoughby is Manager of Strategic Marketing and Outreach at Canadian Water Network.

The full version can be found online at http://www.blue-economy.ca. 

WHY DEVELOP AND POPULATE FLOOD PLAINS AREAS?

The following is a an article in WaterCanada July/Aug 2013 issue ~ Life on the Flood Plains
Why does development continue in areas of risk?

Collages4

IN JUNE, roughly 100,000 people in Calgary and southern Alberta found themselves displaced during what the government called the worst flood in the province’s history. Though the extent of the damage will not be fully realized for months, reports have suggested the costs could be close to $5 billion.

At the recent Canadian Water Summit, held in Calgary just days after the flooding, experts suggested that many areas of Canada have significant, comprehensive, and historic data about climate variability and flood plains. So why does a natural event have to cause so much extensive damage?

The simple answer might be that, despite the available information, we continue to develop in flood plains. At the summit, consultant Lisa Maria Fox showed a photo of knee-deep relief workers downtown. The backdrop? A large billboard advertising condos with a dream waterfront view.

Collages3

What’s the solution? Short of ceasing development on properties we deem valuable, municipalities can require developers to have homebuyers sign a covenant stating they understand the risk. Chilliwack, British Columbia has bylaws to this effect. One Calgarian summit participant said she had no idea she lived in a flood plain until the flood happened, so another person suggested street signs in key areas indicating what to do in case of flood, since, in many cases, people are not aware of the risk.

RIVER OF LIGHT CELEBRATION ~ ALBERTA, CANADA

WEB SITE COLLAGE

RIVER OF LIGHT LOGOShifting and evolving as it travels to rivers throughout the world, the River of Light has gained local and international recognition through its ability to not only engage communities to participate in the work, but also to highlight the importance of river preservation and water conversation on a global scale.  The River of Light is a world touring art installation by Creatmosphere that combines floating lights, sound and new technologies to celebrate the rivers of the world through public art.

River of Light Art project on the Bow River in Calgary August 2010, Artist: Laurent Louyer.  Photo slideshow to start with video clip of colour changes starting at 1:31 and then a few more images.  Music by Roger Subiranan Mata, “Point of No Return”, available through a creative commons license on http://www.jemendo

RED DEER RIVER2013 marks the 100th birthday of the City of Red Deer and to celebrate this the Red Deer River will become the territory and stage for a series of daylight sculptural and sound installations and night-time light and video interventions that aim to create new Points of View for the community to discover and engage with their city and river.

Web: www.riveroflight.org
The River of Lights: Points of View has been commissioned by the
Central Alberta Historical Society for the Red Deer City Centennial.

Associated link ~http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/river-of-light