Buffalo Pound WTP cuts into reserve for sludge disposal, lower water sales

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Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant Construction
The Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant is nearly halfway though construction. Photo Credit: Graham-Aecon

Saskatchewan’s Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant — nearly halfway through a massive renewal project — is on track for a $1.1-million operational deficit for 2023 due to additional costs associated with the disposal of sludge from its process waste lagoons to landfill, as well as lower than expected water sales. 

Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant President and CEO Ryan Johnson shared the news with Moose Jaw officials through a semi-annual report on the first half of 2023. 

The plant supplies an average of approximately 90 million litres per day of treated water to approximately 260,000 people living in the cities of Regina and Moose Jaw.

Councillors asked why water consumption was down, even though it was a dry year for both cities. Water sales were below expected levels by about $273,000 or 1.9%, the report states.

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“The water main breaks are down for the two cities, which is unaccountable and lost revenue water, so that has an impact on the water we sell because both cities found 2023 has been a good year for water main breaks,” Johnson explained to the executive committee.

The plant’s revenues are estimated at $14.2 million by year’s end, which is $270,000 less than budgeted revenues. 

Operating expenditures are projected to be $870,000 over budget, primarily due to additional costs associated with the disposal of sludge from process lagoons.  

The deficit will reduce the plant’s operating reserve by $1.1 million, but have no impact on operations, Johnson explained. The targeted $2-million reserve had been a cushion in years when water sales are below forecasts or unanticipated costs exceed budget.

The plant, about 40% of the way through a renewal project that could approach nearly $400 million, has recently switched over to renewable energy sources, said Johnson.

“Currently all energy consumed at the plant is being sourced from green sources,” the plant report states. “In order to diversify the green energy sources further, the corporation is implementing a solar project which, when completed, will supply up to 15% of the plant’s needs.”

The upgrades will help the plant increase capacity, meet shifting regulatory requirements, and better handle the growing range of water conditions from Buffalo Pound Lake.

Johnson told the executive committee that the renewal project has seen about 180 people on site, with 410,000 hours of work that have been completed out of 1 million hours planned. 

“The project appears to be about three months behind schedule, but the critical path items are on schedule,” Johnson explained. “There have been disruptions to our operations when you have a contractor working in a live facility, but we’ve been able to mitigate these as they occur.”

About $145 million out of the $325 million allocated for the renewal project has been spent.

Council members were invited to tour the facility’s progress in the new year. The original plant was built in 1955.

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