North Saskatchewan River
New legislation could authorize an interbasin transfer of about 175,000 cubic metres of treated municipal drinking water per year from the North Saskatchewan River, pictured, to serve about 500 residents in Alberta’s communities of Entwistle and Nakamun Park. Photo credit: Pecold, AdobeStock.

A new bill introduced in the Alberta Legislature proposes to construct one of the province’s longest regional waterline connections, to end drinking water quality and reliability issues for two small communities in central Alberta. 

Bill 42: North Saskatchewan River Basin Water Authorization Act passed its Third Reading in early November. If finalized, the legislation would authorize an interbasin transfer of about 175,000 cubic metres of treated municipal drinking water per year from the North Saskatchewan River to serve about 500 residents in Entwistle and Nakamun Park.

Both Entwistle and Nakamun Park are located in the Athabasca River basin. Under the Water Act, transferring water from one river basin to another requires a special act of the Legislature.

Reeve of Lac Ste. Anne County, Joe Blakeman, noted that the project would be benchmarked as the longest waterline in Alberta upon completion.

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“Connecting Nakamun Park and Entwistle to safe, reliable drinking water marks a milestone along a 15-year journey,” announced Blakeman in a statement.

From issues with scarcity, to blue-green algae, to expensive treatment processes, or contaminant spills into local lakes from train derailments, many communities in the region have struggled to maintain stable access to quality drinking water.

Under the new proposal, drinking water from the North Saskatchewan River would be treated by Epcor Utilities in Edmonton through a connection to the West Inter-Lakes District (WILD) regional waterline in Parkland County. The West Inter-Lake District Water Commission was created in 2008 with a mandate to bring potable water from the capital region to the member municipalities.

“We are proud partners and very supportive of the excellent work the WILD Water Services Commission continues to do to provide stable, clean drinking water to our communities,” Tracey Melnyk, deputy mayor of Parkland County, announced in response to Bill 42, which now only requires Royal Assent.

Regional officials had considered sourcing drinking water from lakes or groundwater, or even trucking in water, but “strong support from local residents and the business community” arose for connection to a regional waterline.

Construction of the regional waterline connection is expected to create about 135 temporary jobs in the region.

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