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Monday, Apr 16, 2018

New pipeline provides Fort McMurray’s south service area with a robust and resilient water supply network

Pipeline Fort McMurray

Water supply to the southern area of the City of Fort McMurray in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo relied on a single watermain across Highway 63 over the Athabasca River. In 2013, this watermain experienced a break. As a result, the Municipality had to truck water to the area, and depended on the capacity of a local reservoir to supply water to residents of the area until the watermain could be repaired.

Subsequently, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo decided to upgrade the water supply to Fort McMurray’s south service area by providing an alternate water supply, reducing the risk to the southern area in the event of a future watermain failure. The new watermain would also expand the water supply system to meet the area’s increasing water demands.

Associated Engineering had completed the Water Master Plan for the Regional Municipality. The plan outlined the concept for expanding the water supply to the southern area of Fort McMurray, and demonstrated its effectiveness in meeting long-term needs. Based on this work, the Regional Municipality retained Associated Engineering to complete design and oversee construction of Phase 1 of the Southwest Water Supply Line.

Project Manager, Owen Mierke, tells us, “Despite the challenge of a long, large diameter pipe crossing the Athabasca River through varying terrain, we developed a cost effective and sustainable design using directional drilling technology.” The water supply line consists of approximately 2000 metres of 750 millimetre diameter watermain, 1400 metres of which was constructed using horizontal directional drilling. 

The project team collaborated with the Regional Municipality, geotechnical specialists, drilling contractors, residents, regulatory agencies, the contractor, and multiple stakeholders to develop an innovative design that addressed the complex geotechnical and environmental issues. Using a trenchless technology, horizontal directional drilling, minimized impact on the environment, residential neighbourhoods, and the public. We implemented a robust project management plan to help address the project’s many challenges. Risk management, a collaborative project delivery approach, contractor prequalification, proactive communication, and extensive stakeholder engagement with the residents and municipal stakeholders contributed to public acceptance and the success of the project.

Proactive and open stakeholder engagement contributed to the project’s success
The Southwest Water Supply Line provides the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the City of Fort McMurray with additional water capacity, supporting growth and reducing risks associated with a single water supply line. The new water supply line also provides additional water supply for firefighting, supporting the existing water supply, which was challenged to support the firefighting and recovery needs of the community during the 2016 wildfire. 
Owen says, “This project demonstrates the benefits of collaboration to develop creative infrastructure solutions.”