SEXSMITH, ALTA. – The Town of Sexsmith will be the main applicant for three grants on behalf of Aquatera that will benefit much of the South Peace.

The decision was made at a special Sexsmith council meeting that took place virtually on Nov. 24.

“We want to ensure that that there’s water to Sexsmith even on the worst days, or we get either a drought situation or a contamination situation,” said Sexsmith mayor Kate Potter.

Aquatera is hopeful for $8 million from the three grants from the province’s Water for Life program, said Ralph Wohlgemuth, Aquatera engineering services manager. He was available to answer questions from council at the meeting.

“Water doesn’t become a big issue until suddenly you turn on your taps and there’s no water coming out,” said Potter.

She said that looking to the future and ensuring the town’s water supply was important to avoid any future problems.

The three grants are intended for different projects.

One grant would go toward a fourth river intake on the Wapiti River that would be installed upstream of the current pumphouse, at the cost of about $37 million. Construction is planned for 2026-2028.

The second is for expansion of the raw water sedimentation/siltation pond which would see an additional pond built to increase capacity in the event of contamination from a spill into the Wapiti River.

“The existing sedimentation ponds have approximately four days of system supply which would not be sufficient to address a contamination issue based on recent events on the Pine River and North Saskatchewan River,” said a report given to council from Aquatera.

The project is expected to cost $14.4 million with construction slated for 2025-2026.

The final grant would benefit Aquatera’s water treatment plant allowing for additional storage capacity to help ensure stable flow rates. The cost of the additional reservoir would be about $26.5 million, with construction planned for 2022-2023.

Aquatera originally went to the County of Grande Prairie to pursue the grants, due its larger population size and experience with the grants, said Wohlgemuth. The county declined the request due to the possibility of having competing interests for other grant funding, he said.

Wohlgemuth explained this would not be an issue for Sexsmith because all its potable water and sanitary servicing comes from Aquatera; county deals with more providers.

The cost to the town’s administration is minimal as Aquatera is already working on the grants and will review the applications with the town before applying, said Wohlgemuth.

Because the provincial dollars are only available to communities with populations under 45,000, the City of Grande Prairie could not apply.