With gold-coloured shovels in hand, five provincial dignitaries heaved dirt into the air to help launch the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant’s three-year renewal project.
More than 40 people — area MLAs, the mayors of Regina and Moose Jaw, plant board members, employees, project contractors, and others — attended the official kickoff of the $325.6 million construction initiative on July 18.
Construction started in June and is expected to conclude in late 2025. Work so far has included constructing temporary roads, starting new summer ponds, relocating a natural gas line, refurbishing a chemical tank, and starting various underground services.
More than 260,000 people in the area can access this water, which is a life-sustaining liquid important to the region’s growth, Mayor Clive Tolley said.
“The longer we wait for these kinds of projects, the more they cost … . It’s a big deal to be doing it now and getting it done,” he remarked.
Tolley was last at the water treatment plant (WTP) in 1989 as a city councillor when upgrades were made. He recalled that the venue gave each member a bottle filled with water from the plant — he still has the bottle — to celebrate those upgrades.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the operation looks like now, and then I’ll come back for the ribbon-cutting in three years and it will be interesting to see the developments (and) improvements that have been made,” he remarked.
Those past upgrades were important, while the refurbishments now will benefit many more people and ensure future water security, he added.
The plant currently produces 205 million litres — ML, or megalitres — of water per day, but will produce 250 ML per day once renovations are complete, said Ryan Johnson, president/CEO of the WTP corporation.
Increasing water production is important because Regina and Moose Jaw are expected to grow in the next 25 years, he continued. The plant will undertake further upgrades in 2050 to ensure it continues to produce high-quality water and can handle a wider range of water conditions from the lake.
To ensure sustainability, the organization will reuse and renovate many of the older buildings since they are still in good condition, Johnson said.
However, the new administration, lab and workshop building will be constructed to LEED-certified standards, while new solar panels will help the plant generate 10 per cent of its power. The organization will also install charging stations for electric vehicles while it plans to switch its entire fleet to EVs.
“With the envisioned standard of the main building, we’re just improving how energy is being used so that we have a smaller carbon footprint,” Johnson added. “We also have a big natural gas usage right now where we generate our carbon. In the new plant we will no longer generate carbon, so it will save on natural gas … .”
Launching this project means the 68-year-old complex will continue to provide safe, quality and reliable drinking water into the future, plant board chair Dale Schoffer said. Residents should appreciate this renewal because water is a precious resource.
Schoffer thanked the federal and provincial governments for providing funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) initiative and Regina and Moose Jaw for allowing the corporation to borrow funds to cover the remaining expenses.
He also thanked the plant’s employees for their skill and commitment to operating the venue.
“Your dedication to delivering a high-quality, reliable water supply to residents — despite the ever-changing and ever-challenging water we draw from Buffalo Pound Lake — has made, and will continue to make, a critical difference in the lives of nearly one-quarter of Saskatchewan’s residents,” he added.