WATER NOTES’FROM ALBERTA.
Specially written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING.
CALGARY, ALTA, May 3, 1906.
Alberta, Canada, is one of the new provinces of the Dominion, and from the rapid immigration into its borders promises to be in a very short time a potent and important factor in the prosperity of the country. The Province seems to be determined that the public utilities of the cities shall be municipalised, and this determination extends, perhaps, principally to the waterworks systems and the water powers. The trouble about working out the idea, however, is that of the few municipalities in the Province several have bartered away their privileges for the proverbial mess of pottage and have had to buy them hack at a big advance—in some cases, considerably above the price for which they could have been installed in the beginning. Another difficulty confronts Alberta, as it does the other and newer Provinces —namely, the impossibility of calculating with any degree of accuracy how greatly, and in what districts of the Province the population will he the greatest, and although there may he no scarcity of water, still there will always be the doubt as to whether or not its sources of supply will remain equally abundant. The Province abounds II streams of sufficent volume to supply many cities and towns. But the older settlers declare that during the dry years these streams dry up. That being the case and the probable increase of the towns being hard to calculate (most are doubling the number of their inhabitants in a wonderfully short space of time), the question not only of the permanence of the water supply, hut, also, of the maintenance of its purity becomes a serious consideration. It is not in Alberta, or the Northwest in general, as in 1 eastern Provinces, where the increase in size and population is steady. If it were, it would he easy to estimate the probable wants of each locality. The actual amount necessary for all purposes including fire protection, may be set down at sixty gallons per capita—although conditions may arise that would render that estimate too small. The great difficulty, of course, will always be that arising from the necessity of having constantly on hand an adequate supply for fire protection. For this purpose there must always be a. reserve at what may be called the suction-ends of the pumps, while the water must be pumped against fire pressure and the mains must be larger and stronger. For this reason, if for no other, a gravity system is preferable. Pumping to a reservoir is next best; direct pressure is the least desirable, since the work on the pumps and, consequently, their wear and tear, is continuous, and an even pressure is not always easy to maintain, and the system is. also, more or less liable to accidents that may cripple it just when proper working is most imperatively called for. In these new Provinces the questions of fire protection, so far as it relates to the supply of water, is being most carefully considered. If artesian or other wells are to be employed in preference to surface water, the probabilities and possibilities of lighting upon a permanent supply are being carefully looked up and tested—and this, not for fire purposes only, but so as to avoid contamination of the water by sewerage and other means of pollution. The question of the size of mains and their material also crops up. For fire purposes the size of the mains must be larger than those intended to furnish water for domestic purposes only, since all the water is wanted at once. For this reason, therefore, the municipalities in Alberta favor laying no mains of less diameter than six-inch, when hydrants are to be set upon them, unless such main is fed from both ends by one of six-inch diameter, or the distance to the hydrant is very short. As to the materia!: In these days, when electric trolley lines are being laid all over, with the current taken from overhead wires and allowed to return to the powerhouse the best way it can, there is always the danger of iron pipes being affected by electrolysis. If, therefore, cast iron pipes are to be laid, every town in the Province, which grants an electric street railway franchise, should insert a clause in that franchise which shall make it of obligation for the company to lay return wires to the powerhouse or to protect the mains in some way from the action of the return current, as would naturally be done if these electric roads were municipal property. As one means of securing the pipes from electrolytic action, there is, perhaps, more than a mere inclination to lay wire-wound-wooden pipes, the life of which some claim to be as long as that of cast iron mains, while it is cheaper than the other. As to the lasting longer than cast iron pipes there is a difference of opinion. Some, who seem to speak with authority, hold that the galvanised iron wire will rust away in twenty or even fifteen years, or. if such is not the case with it throughout, the protective coating wears away in spots, and the wire breaks in consequence, causing bad leaks. In Calgary wire-wound pipes have been experimented with, and so far have proved satisfactory. But they have been laid only a few years as yet. In some districts of the Province, however, where the high price of cast iron pipe would render its use impossible, such pipe,’even if it lasted only fifteen years, could be advantageously and economically employed. It is confidently expected, however, by some that in a very few years iron wire will be manufactured that will be so protected as to be as good as cast iron. The penetration of frost in winter has proved a source of difficulty and expense to the municipalities, when it came to laying the mains. To take Calgary. for example: There the1 grdttnd in which the pipes Ikis in some portions practically all gravel, and the frost penetrates all of nine feet; in others it is a mixture of loam and gravel varying in depth; in others it is all loam. The mains, therefore, are laid at the following depths: All loam, trenches six feet six inches covering on pipe; three feet of loam, balance, gravel mixture, seven feet or eight feet according to the amount of gravel; two feet of loam, balance, gravel mixture, eight feet eight inches; one foot loam, balance, gravel mixture, nine feet six inches; all gravel trenches, nine feet six inches. The depth of the trenches varies in different cities and towns.
The cities in which the municipal ownership of public utilities is working very successfully are Calgary, Edmonton (where the electric power plant is of a most up-to-date type and has been in use for two years) and Medicine Hat. The last, which not very long ago was looked upon as only half-civilised, has a very complete waterworks system. It is municipal and has over 600 services. With a moderate charge for hydrant rental, the system is on a paying basis, and the rates to consumers are extremely reasonable. At Calgary, where the source of supply is the river— the water, which at present is of very good quality, is pumped direct into the mains at a point one mile and a half from the business centre of the city. The system, which is equipped with two duplex, twelve by twenty by twelve by ten and eight by sixteen by sixteen by eight pumping engines of 1,500,000 capacity, nearly ten miles of mains are laid, on which are set between seventy and eighty hydrants, cost to construct $150,000. The domestic pressure is from thirtyfive to fifty pounds; the fire, from 100 pounds to 150 pounds—a very good showing for a young city of hardly 700 acres’ area.