It may be a hard question to answer politically, but when it comes to water and wastewater systems for the Town of Canmore, the answer to the question of what the community's population would be at build out can be glimpsed in the expected update to the utility master plan.
Canmore's utility master plan, according to manager of public works Andreas Comeau, underwent a major rewrite in 2016 and an updated version is expected for council consideration and approval in February.
In the meantime, however, Comeau and consultants from CIMA+ that undertook the $280,000 project of drafting a new master plan presented a draft version of the strategy and its implications for the future of the community in December to council at its committee of the whole meeting.
According to Steve Dawe with CIMA+, at build out Canmore could have a population of 34,000 and the plan addresses how each utility will function as the community moves toward that number.
“The benefits of a utility master plan are that it proves a plan to support growth and development in a town,” Dawe told council. “It assists Town administrators with project planning and provides a budget forecast for capital projects.”
He noted Canmore's current population is only half of what the utility model projects build out to be – about 16,967, including non-permanent residents in the community (who represent 20 per cent of the population).
Every resident – permanent or non-permanent – is considered the same for the utility model, said Dawe.
Dawe said the utility master plan's scope covers the two main utilities of the municipality – water and wastewater services – and looks at what infrastructure is needed to maintain that utility now, in five years, 10 years, 15 years and at full build out. The model also utilized as much “real world” information as possible, he said, to ensure recommendations are based in reality and not theory.
“I have seen in my career a lot of reliance on theoretical stuff and rules of thumb … it was important for us and working with the Town to make sure everything was anchored in reality because we are making some pretty big decisions that are extremely important,” Dawe said.
Planning utility infrastructure, he said, requires that it is adequately sized to support the existing population and for the future.
The wastewater treatment plant for Canmore – operated by EPCOR – is not included in the model. Dawe said the plant was reviewed in 2012 and that was felt to be sufficient for the facility in terms of future infrastructure needs.
The population projections in the utility plan for the next five, 10 and 15 year time periods were based on information collected from development permits historically, the development industry and Town administration, according to Dawe.
The presentation to council set out that over the next five years the population of Canmore could grow by 2,175 residents; in six to 10 years another population growth of 2,188 people is predicted; between year 11 and 15 (2028 to 2032) another population increase of 2,500 people is predicted.
That establishes a cumulative population of Canmore at 23,830 by that time and it is expected the population would increase by 10,533 people to reach a build out total of 34,000.
Comeau added the utility plan also includes the populations of Harvie Heights and Dead Man's Flats, as Canmore provides utility services for those two hamlets as well.
But Councillor Sean Krausert was curious as to how visitors – and hotel guests – are calculated into that number.
Dawe explained assumptions built into the model to calculate water usage in the future also captures the commercial growth of the community, not just residential. Numbers are based on water metre usage in commercial areas, as well as residential.
Right now, he said, water usage for Canmore is 420 litres per person, per day and that calculation includes commercial use. So when the population projection is established, it is making assumptions that water usage would be reduced in the community to 360 litres per person per day. He said by using that number, it captures the commercial demand because the “assumption is that visitors and commercial demand will stay in proportion to residential in the same way.”
The water utility includes two water supplies (the Rundle Forebay and the wellhead adjacent to Railway Avenue at Bow Valley Trail), three supply areas (West, Central and East), four reservoirs (pumphouse one, Grassi, Benchlands and Silvertip), five pump stations and 17 pressure zones.
The wastewater utility (excluding the treatment plant) includes 12 collection areas and 11 lift stations. One of the biggest concerns for that system, Dawe said, is infiltration and currently Canmore's infiltration rate in the valley bottom area is higher than the provincial standard.
That means groundwater makes its way into sewer pipes and the result is the treatment plant works harder to treat that increased volume. Dawe said the concern for the future is that a high infiltration rate could lead to over capacity sewer pipes.
“Certainly that is an issue that should be looked at further,” he said.
The wastewater system model incorporated information from the Town's GIS system, information from previous models, and actual draw down tests conducted on lift stations in Canmore, said Dawe, who performed the tests himself.
“At the same time I did a condition assessment of all lift stations and for the most part we found lift stations were operating well, but there were a couple that had capacity issues immediately,” he said.
Dawe said the utility plan identified 10 water system projects needed to meet current and future requirements of the system. Fire flow requirements, for example, are not being met in commercial areas of Bow Valley Trail, Spring Creek Drive, Silvertip Trail and the South Bow Loop. Pressure improvements are also needed in Cougar Creek and Hubman Landing, according to the report.
“We have established two projects there that will improve those areas; not super critical, but we have a plan nonetheless,” he said.
Projects needed to support population growth, Dawe told council, include upgrades to the water treatment plant, pumphouse number two and work at Grassi and Smith Creek reservoirs.
Both reservoirs, he said, are connected to future development in the Resort Core and Smith Creek areas of Three Sisters Mountain Village.
Similarly, projects for the wastewater system were split between what is needed to meet the requirements now and in future. In addition to addressing infiltration, Dawe said the master plan also recommends projects at lift stations two and six, eight gravity sewer upgrade projects downtown and increased monitoring.
For the future, Dawe said three lift station upgrades are recommended (lift stations two, eight and 10) along with sewer upgrades.
The total financial impact of the recommended projects, however, was not part of the presentation. It should form part of the final version of the utility master plan to be presented in February.
Comeau said all projects that are recommended to meet current needs of the utility are in the five-year capital plan and utility rate model.