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REGINA, SK: BUFFALO POUND WATER GOES FROM LAUGHING STOCK TO PRIZE WINNER
This story is brought to you in part by Proteus Waters
Buffalo Pound water treatment plant in Saskatchewan beat out nine competitors this weekend in a taste test at the 69th annual Western Canada Water Conference in Saskatoon.
The plant, which primarily services the cities of Moosejaw and Regina, won the contest for the second time, allowing them to compete in the American Water Works Association's (AWWA) contest, which will be held next year in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Established in 1955, Buffalo Pound water treatment plant serves about 260,000 people, which is approximately a quarter of the province's population.
Of note is that it wasn't always known for its great tasting water.
"Back in the eighties we had some of the worst tasting water in North America," said Ryan Johnson, General Manager of Buffalo Pound, "We were a running joke on Johnny Carson. The water was always safe but aesthetically it was unpleasing." The raw water source for the water the plant uses is the South Saskatchewan River, after which it flows into the man-made Lake Diefenbaker and through the upper and lower Qu'Appelle water systems and then into Buffalo Pound Lake. Buffalo Pound Lake is quite shallow, very trophic and prone to high amounts of algae.
As Johnson put it, "It's not great quality as a water source but it's what we have to work with."
In 1985, the two cities that take their water from the plant made a major investment and installed granular activated carbon contactors (GAC) into the water supply system, which improved the aesthetics of the water dramatically by removing any taste or colour. In addition, the GACs helped the general quality of the water too.
When asked to share the secret to winning a water taste test competition, Johnson divulged the following, "In our case what helps us a lot is our GACs but it also might be how we run the plant. Because we're a wholesale provider we only chlorinate enough to meet regulations."
As the water is then shipped to cities, small communities, a provincial park and a water stand, the plant knows that in many cases it will be re-chlorinated, so doesn't add too much of the chemical in the first place, giving the water a cleaner, more pure taste.
This year, they faced off against White City, Saskatchewan; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Dauphin, Manitoba; Calgary, Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta; Medicine Hat, Alberta; Red Deer, Alberta; and Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.
The judges gave the contestants grades from one to five in three categories: Taste, Clarity and Odour. The city with the highest combined marks takes home the prize.
Johnson stressed that the competition is all for a bit of fun, noting," Our primary duty is to make the water safe at all times. Taste is just an added bonus."
Western Canada Water (WCW), the organisation that puts on the conference is connected to the American Water Works Association, which promotes the exchange of knowledge between various water management related organisations.
WCW's members hail from the northern territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. British Columbia has its own, similar association Kristen McGillivray, Deputy Executive Director for WCW said this year's competition had the highest amount of submissions it's seen.
"It's really gained attention in the last couple years, " she said, "It's something we're wanting to highlight and promote because it is one way that makes it really easy for the public to see what we're doing. Obviously it's water professionals judging it but it's easy for people to understand," adding, "A lot of the public have questions about the water thanks to situations like Flint. We think this is a good way to highlight that the water is safe and there are a lot of people involved in producing safe municipal tap water."
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