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Water Today Title July 7, 2022

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Updated 2017/5/24
Holiday Water Report 2017


By Ronan O'Doherty

Alberta is home to some of Canada's most renowned and well visited national parks.

While most national parks across the country measure their attendance in the hundreds of thousands, both Banff and Jasper national parks measure theirs in the multiple millions.

With Parks Canada offering free admission to their parks across the country to celebrate Canada's 150th, we decided to look into whether Alberta's parks are prepared for a bump in admissions.

The heavily visited parks like Banff and Jasper have municipalities within them.

The Municipality of Jasper is responsible for the potable water distribution within the park and operates independently from Parks Canada.

"Our system is sized to accommodate all of our visitors. We do anticipate a very busy year in 2017 but realistically the demand on water should be similar to that of the summer 2016. Jasper was very busy last year with our hotels and campgrounds being at full capacity all summer long," said Christine Nadon, a representative for the Municipality of Jasper," We do not see as much day-traffic as Banff does for example and our water distribution infrastructure is already handling the volumes to service our 2.3M visitors a year."

Water in Jasper is sourced from three separate water wells, which feed a reservoir and chlorination system approved by Alberta Environment. They follow the Government of Alberta and Alberta Environment regulations as far as flows, testing, where the water comes from, and boil water advisories.

Nadon says that they have a robust emergency management plan given the high volume of visitors they get annually, which includes protocols for boil water advisories.

Steve Young, a representative for Jasper National Park, said that additional preparation is being done to ensure the park can handle a bump in visitation.

"Two teams of Wildlife Guardians will be busy over the summer ensuring a good visitor experience when it comes to viewing wildlife," Young said, "but done in a way that ensures the safety of both the humans and the animals."

He also told us that teams of ambassadors will also be utilized especially along the Icefields Parkway to provide tourist information and put another set of eyes and ears in place.

In addition, the Jasper Information Centre will extend its hours to 8 am to 8 pm through the summer months.

Diana Waltmann is a representative for the City of Banff. She told us that they manage their infrastructure and services based on the visitor population not the town’s residential population. With this in mind, the wastewater treatment plant and water delivery services have the capacity to handle peak load, meaning every hotel room and campsite being occupied.

"We do not anticipate any problems this summer due to visitation levels," Waltmann said, "Day visitors typically are not huge consumers of our water," adding, "But we prefer they use our water bottle filling stations through town than purchase bottled water."

She told us that the source for Banff's water is a confined high-quality underground aquifer.

"We test for bacteria weekly, monitor chlorine residual continuously, test turbidity daily and conduct a comprehensive annual set of tests," Waltmann said.

In the event of a drinking water advisory, Banff would use their web-based emergency alert system to notify residents and businesses (hotels and restaurants), the extent (web, social media, and signage) would depend on the circumstances.

In an emergency situation, such as a flood or forest fire impacting the drinking water system, their emergency response, which is practiced every year, includes protection of infrastructure, back-up generators (permanently in place), and the emergency alert system.

Christine Tricomi, a representative for Banff National Park, told us that they are encouraging shoulder season visitation by offering more events and activities during fall and spring as well as promoting less-frequented and less-sensitive areas of our parks.

They have also made their reservation system available in January, as opposed to April, as the case has been in past years, to make it easier for visitors to plan their experience well in-advance.

To try and ease the amount of cars in the parks, Parks Canada also invested in the ROAM bus system and will continue the free Lake Louise Shuttle and traffic flaggers at key areas in Banff National Park throughout the summer of 2017.

The Moraine Lake Shuttle will be available for larch season and they have increased their use of highway message boards and social media to manage expectations and help people coming to the park be better prepare for their visit.

Parks Canada also provided us with info on some of the less visited parks in the province.

In Elk Island National Park, the camp site and the day-use areas both have taps with drinking water available. They get their drinking water from a municipal source, where it is tested and treated.

Bottled water is also available for sale at the Visitor Centre.

In Waterton Lakes National Park, visitors can access potable drinking water throughout the community of Waterton Park as well as the Townsite and Crandell campgrounds.

Visitors are advised to bring their their own water or boil or treat surface water from streams and lakes at the Belly River Campground as well as all back-country campgrounds, day use areas and picnic areas.

We were informed that Parks Canada sources its potable drinking water in Waterton Lakes National Park from three 32 metre deep wells, which provide water to the town site, the operations compound, and Crandell Campground.

A representative from Parks Canada's head office told us that to ensure consistency among the national parks; Parks Canada follows potable water guidelines that are built on the principles outlined in the Health Canada Interdepartmental Working Group Drinking Water Guidance Document.

They also added that their potable water is tested regularly according to Parks Canada Potable Water Guidelines and Standards.

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