WATER SUPPLY FOR SASKATCHEWAN
The water supply problem of the province of Saskatchewan, more particularly that section of the province lying to the south of the South Saskatchewan River, and bounded roughly on the west by Thunder Creek and the Canadian Northern line from Moose Jaw to Forward, on the south by the Shaunavon-Weybourn line, and on the east by the Regina-Weyburn line and the Qu’Appelle River and Buffalo Lake, with an area of approximately 5,000 square miles, is a serious one, is still unsolved, and touches vitally the interests of every inhabitant in that district.
In this large area of country, which, from an agricultural point of view, possesses land which yields the most productive wheat crops in the world, there are no rivers of any size, and the lakes which dot the country here and there over its area are mostly of an alkaline nature and entirely unsuited for drinking purposes. The geological formation of the country is such that the supply of water from wells, even those which have been drilled to a great depth, is very poor, and none of the large centres of population, notwithstanding the fact that they have spent huge sums of money in endeavoring to acquire abundant supplies of water for their citizens, have been able so far to secure such supplies. The whole population is thus seriously handicapped by the one vital element which goes hand-in-hand with the progress and prosperity of any country, viz., an abundant supply of pure water.
Period of Reconstruction.
At the present time the governments of our country are wisely looking ahead to the period of reconstruction which must necessarily follow in all countries on the conclusion of the war, and to the settlement in civil occupations of the large num1 er of soldiers who will return here on the victorious completion of the war, and the works which are to he carried out in this reconstruction period are of vital importance to the engineering profession, as Upon them will devolve to a very great extent the designing and execution of any large enterprise on which our governments may embark. In our Western country the source of all wealth springs from the cultivation of the enotmous tracts of fertile land which have yet only been developed to a small degree, and in order that this section of land of which I speak, to the south of the Saskatchewan River, may be properly developed and furnish subsistence for the large population which must ultimately dwell on it, as well as supplying its surplus to the needs of the F.mpire, an abundant supply of water is the first essential to that development.
No New Problem.
The question of providing an adequate water supply for the plains of Regina and Moose Jaw is no new one, and has been taken up from time to time by that very enterprising body of engineers who constitute the backbone of the Department of the Interior, and as far back as 18‘J4, Mr. Dennis, the then Chief Inspector of Irrigation, in his annual report, dw’elt on the necessity for some scheme to provide an abundant water supply for those areas. In his report of 1895 he speaks of the necessity of delivering the water of the South Saskatchewan River to these plains for the purposes of irrigating what he termed as “the arid regions of Regina and Moose Jaw,” as well as for the purpose of furnishing an adequate supply of drinking water to the settlers who were then coming in in large numbers to settle on this territory. Since this report was penned it has been demonstrated that this land can he, and is, successfully farmed without the necessity of irrigation, but the problem of diverting the water of the South Saskatchewan River for the purpose of supplying water for stock and drinking purposes still remains. The question was brought up by another engineer, Mr. T. Aird Murray, who, in 1911, made a report to the Commissioner of Public Health of the province, in which lie, pointed out the inadequacy of the water supplies for domestic purposes in the territory between Regina, Moose Jaw and Weyburn, as well as the Qu’Appelle Valley, and suggested that a supply of water he obtained for this country by diverting the waters of the South Saskatchewan River at Elbow by means of a dam across the Saskatchewan River, a tunnel through the height of land, allowing the water to flow by gravity down the Qu’Appelle to Buffalo Lake, from whence the water could be pumped to the various towns and cities as required.
M.r. Francis’s Report.
Mr. Walter J. Francis, C. E., of Montreal, in a report in 1911 on the water supply problem of the city of Moose Jaw, also made reference to this project, and stated : “When the south half of the province of Saskatchewan will have become densely settled it is our opinion that the South Saskatchewan River will be found the only source of supply for domestic purposes. We cannot find any evidences at present of any other water suitable for cities of fifty thousand population and a densely settled surrounding district. We believe the Saskatchewan to be the proper source, primarily, because its supply is obtained from glacial districts, and, therefore, not dependent upon precipitation in the prairie country. It is, moreover, the only continuously flowing supply of any magnitude in the country. The most feasible route is doubtless that following the valley of Thunder Creek to its source and then crossing over the divide about five miles to the Saskatchewan. From the engineering point of view there are no serious obstacles. The location of the dam on the river, the details of the pumping station, the arrangement and size of the pipe line, and all such features can only be determined by careful study after surveys of the locality will have been made. The only real obstacle to this project is its cost, which will probably run into five million dollars or more.”
The Saskatchewan government at this time appointed a commission to inquire into the whole question of the water supply of this district, and their first action was to apply for a license from the Department of the Interior diverting 200 second feet from the South Saskatchewan River for water supply purposes for the southern part of the province. The Department of the Interior, however, are the real pioneers in this matter, and carried out extensive surveys with the object of locating the best line for a gravity supply from the height of land at the Saskatchewan River to supply the territory already described, and very full reports of these surveys, together with plans, will be found in the irrigation reports for the years 1912-1913 and 1914. It is impossible for me in the short space of time at my disposal to present the problem to you in any detail, but the matter is of such importance to this section of the country that, in my opinion, the engineering profession would be derelict in its duty did it not take up this matter and point the way to a complete solution of the problem.
In a report recently issued by the Department of the Interior at Calgary, a statement was given of the quantity of water used in various urban communities in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and I find that in twenty of these places the average quantity of water used per day in 1917 amounted to 74.5 gallons per head. Eleven places in Saskatchewan are recorded, and the average quantity of water used in these communities, with populations ranging from 350 to 35,000 amounts to 47.9 gallons per head per day. These are figures which, to my mind, demonstrate clearly the inadequacy of our community supplies in the province of Saskatchewan, more especially when considered alongside the figures for the whole of Canada, which average 111 gallons per head per day. The population of the district to be served, by a rough computation which I have made, based on the 1916 census, figures out at approximately 50,000, to which should be added another 25,000 for the purely rural areas, making a total population to be supplied of 75,000, and if this population is doubled to allow for future growth, the problem is to supply a population of 150,000 scattered over 5,000 square miles with 150,000,000 gallons of water per day.
Two Schemes Outlined.
From the Hydrometric Records of the Department of the Interior the mean minimum flow of the Saskatchewan River at Saskatoon is given at 1,247 second feet in the period from 1911 to 1917, and this occurred in January, 1913. The maximum flow recorded in the same period is 60,566 second feet in July, 1916. If we take the figure of 20,000,000 gallons, of 37 second feet per day, which, in my opinion, would serve this community for the next twenty years, it is found that this amount equals slightly less than three per cent of the minimum flow of the river, so that there can te no question or doubt as to the adequacy of the South Saskatchewan River to supply now and at all times in the future the needs of the province in regard to water supply. Two schemes have been surveyed by the Irrigation Department, one to secure a supply of water from the river at Elbow, which necessitates the carrying of the water over the height of land, which at this point is 88 feet; the construction of a small reservoir on the height of land, and the flow of gravity from the reservoir along the Qu’Appelle River to Buffalo Lake, where it is proposed to construct a dam and impound the waters. From this dam it would be necessary to pump the water over a height of land approximately 300 feet high before it could be delivered to either Regina or Moose Jaw. The objections to this scheme, in mv opinion, are many, the first and most important being that the river bed of the Qu’Appelle River north of Buffalo Lake is of black, swampy earth, and of such a character that any water turned into it for domestic purposes would be badly polluted; and again, the area draining into Buffalo Lake yields a flow of approximately 30,000,000 gallons per day, and the loss by evaporation and other causes amounts to practically the same figure. so that, until the consumption of water under this scheme reached the figure of 30,000,000 gallons per day, the communities would be supplied, not with South Saskatchewan River water, but really with a mixture of Buffalo Lake and South Saskatchewan River water, in which the waters of Buffalo Lake would predominate. The other scheme presented, and for which many surveys have been carried out by the Department, necessitates the pumping of water from the Saskatchewan River near Shellstone Creek over the height of land, which is over 300 feet, with a gravity pipe line following to some extent the vallev of Thunder Creek. The objection to this scheme is the height of land which it is necessary to overcome, and to the fact that the gravity pipe line would touch none of the larger centres of population which it is necessary to supply. The estimates for these schemes run all the way from five to twenty million dollars, figuring on a supply varying from 30.000,000 to 100,000,000 gallons per day. When these schemes were propounded, of course, they did not appear visionary, but since 1912 we have come down to earth, and it is now felt that a scheme of very much less magnitude will be sufficient for the district for many years to come, and, in my opinion, any scheme which provides for a maximum of 15,000,000 gallons per day will be absolutely adequate for the next fifteen to twenty years.
*Paper read before the Saskatoon meeting of the Engineering Institute of Canada.
Granted that it is proven that this district will require a supply of water from the South Saskatchewan River in the very near future, there are a number of essential points which any such proposed scheme must embrace: (1) The scheme must be reasonable in cost. (2) The pipe line must follow a route from the river which would easily be accessible to the larger centres of population to be supplied. (3) The water should be delivered at sufficient pressure to supply the urban centres without the necessity of further pumping. (4) The manufacture of material necessary for the works should be carried out as far as possible on the route of the proposed works. Mr. H. E. M. Kensit, M.I.E.E., prepared a report to the Department of the Interior in 1913 on the question of the sources of power available for pumping water from the South Saskatchewan River, and at the conclusion of his report he says that all the proposals have been based on a gravity supply, delivering the water with little or no pressure at the level of the Canadian Pacific Railway rails in each city, and points out that the basic idea of an undertaking of this kind should be to make the supply readily available, not only for the larger cities, but for a large number of the intermediate smaller towns, and that by a gravity supply this idea is not carried out. On the other hand,he points out that with a pressure system a smaller diameter pipe could be laid, and the pipes could be made to follow the route of a railroad and near the centres of population. In this opinion I entirely concur, and in any scheme which is adopted the water supply main should certainly parallel as nearly as possible some one of the lines of railways running from the river to the centre of the district between Regina and Moose Jaw. I have endeavored to outline the problem which faces the community to the south of the Saskatchewan River, and I think that some action should be taken by way of focusing the many schemes which have been pronosed for a solution of the problem, and the Dominion and Provincial Governments should be impressed with the fact that the assistance of the engineering profession is at the disposal of these governments, so that a perfect scheme may be placed before them and carried out immediately after the completion of the great war.