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Alberta government spending $50M on 3 new water intake facilities

The Alberta government is spending $50.5 million over five years to cover up to 30 per cent of construction and associated infrastructure costs for three new water intake facilities.

The facilities will serve projects operating in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland (AIH), which is the province’s first and currently only Designated Industrial Zone (DIZ).

The province’s website defines DIZs as areas “targeted for strategic investment and development of clustered industrial development and economic diversification.”

The Industrial Heartland, northeast of Edmonton, is 582 square kilometres in size. It extends into five different municipalities, including the cities of Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton and the counties of Lamont, Strathcona and Sturgeon. The government says the water intakes will be located in those three counties, and will pull water from the North Saskatchewan River.

In a press conference announcing the provincial funding on Thursday, Alberta’s minister of Environment and Protected Areas, Rebecca Schulz, said new water intakes are needed to keep expanding AIH.

“This will help attract world-leading industrial projects right here in the Industrial Heartland and ensure we have the infrastructure to support them,” said Schulz.

“Water is critical for industry. They need it to operate.”

Schulz said there are currently no projects in the DIZ that would require the use of a new water intake facility. But the chair of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, David Diduck, says the plan to build three new ones is a strong business decision.

“It will provide dependable access to low-cost water while simultaneously ensuring shared use of infrastructure across new users,” said Diduck.

Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk is the MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville. AIH is within those boundaries. Armstrong-Homeniuk wants to see more industrial projects there.

“The Heartland already provides approximately 30,000 direct and indirect jobs,” said Armstrong-Homeniuk.

“This means ever more jobs in my constituency and opportunities for those moving here.”

‘My guess is there’s going to be pretty high return flows’

The provincial government says all projects within Designated Industrial Zones must follow certain environmental standards.

“As part of the DIZ, rigorous environmental protection and management measures are in place, including an air emissions requirement policy, enhanced guidance for air modelling, and a water quality management program,” reads a press release from Thursday.

Minister Schulz says new water intake facilities will help grow the petrochemical sector, which includes many of the companies already operating in AIH. 

Alain Pietroniro is a University of Calgary civil engineering professor with expertise in water resources engineering. He says it’s common for much of the water used in petrochemical operations to be recycled, and that large amounts are eventually treated before going back to the source.

“In this case here, my guess is there’s going to be pretty high return flows.”

Thursday’s provincial press release says “A significant emphasis is being placed on the expanded use of reclaimed water by industry to help maximize water supply and reduce the environmental impact.”

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