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Mandatory ban on non-essential water use in Edmonton and Capital Region is lifted

February 02, 2024

​​​​​​​​​​Update - 11 a.m. on February 2, 2024

Following the completion of critical repairs at the E.L Smith Water Treatment Plant, and stabilization of the water distribution network, EPCOR has ended the ban on non-essential water use in Edmonton and the Capital Region

“We are deeply grateful for the support of customers in Edmonton and across the region this week," said Frank Mannarino, Senior Vice President of EPCOR Water Services. Together, your efforts saved more than 100 million litres of water, which helped us keep the water system running while we made critical repairs at one of Edmonton's two water treatment plants. Every drop helped." 

“We know that for many residents and businesses there was a significant impact, particularly for those who had to reduce or halt operations," Mannarino said. “I would like to express our deep appreciation to the owners and workers at affected businesses, including car washes, laundromats, and many of our largest water customers, and hope that all residents will support these businesses going forward.

Residents, business owners, large water users, and regional partners worked together to conserve water this week. Cumulative water consumption since the restrictions were announced has been about 109 million litres lower than typical levels, and included collaboration on significant reductions by the largest water customers in Edmonton and by regional customers who represent more than 90 municipalities.

The conservation efforts, combined with the restoration of partial pumping capacity at E.L. Smith within 24-hours of the initial incident, helped ensure that Edmonton and the region remained supplied with essential water services throughout the incident, and that there was no interruption to fire protection and drinking water services.

The restrictions on non-essential water use were implemented as part of EPCOR's emergency management plans following an outage in the electrical system inside the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant. The electrical system powers the four pumps that move potable water from the plant into the distribution network. The activities involved in the repairs are described in the attached backgrounder.

In addition to public communications, more than 300 businesses with high water usage and non-essential operations were directly contacted by EPCOR team members, and EPCOR met with many of the region's largest water customers from industries such as brewing, manufacturing and animal processing as they adapted their operations.

EPCOR's people continued to apply their technology and resources to ensuring water quality throughout the emergency, continuing to provide clean, safe drinking water. 

​EPCOR will be reviewing the outage experienced at the plant, including an assessment of the demand management measures taken and plans to provide an initial update to Edmonton's Utility Committee on March 4, 2024. 

Learn about Edmonton's water treatment process​​​

About EPCOR 

EPCOR, through its wholly owned subsidiaries, builds, owns and operates electrical, natural gas and water transmission and distribution networks, water and wastewater treatment facilities, sanitary and stormwater systems, and infrastructure in Canada and the United States. The Company also provides electricity, natural gas and water products and services to residential and commercial customers. EPCOR, headquartered in Edmonton, is committed to conducting its business and operations safely and responsibly. Environmental stewardship, public health and community well-being are at the heart of EPCOR’s mission to provide clean water and safe, reliable energy. EPCOR is an Alberta Top 75 employer, is ranked among Corporate Knights’ 2023 Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada, and is designated a Utility of the Future Today by the Water Environment Federation. 


E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant Pump Issue

Sequence of events

The post-incident review will identify and validate the causes of the incident and the operational and communications response. Based on the information available at this time, this is our preliminary understanding of the sequence of events:

  • ​In the early morning on Monday, January 29 a high voltage cable feeding the two 4,000 horsepower (hp) pumps at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant came into contact with water. The contact resulted in electrical gear failure along with damage to other electrical components.

  • While production of clean water could continue and be stored at the plant, the plant was unable to pump water into the distribution system, resulting in a plant shutdown.

  • Following an examination of the damage, it was determined that replacement of the electrical components and high voltage cables feeding the 4,000 horsepower pumps was required. Two smaller 2,000 horsepower pumps did not have any cable damage. ​

  • While the E.L. Smith plant was shut down, production continued at the Rossdale Water Treatment Plant along with supplies from reservoirs. However, Rossdale was not operating at full capacity as it was undergoing pre-planned capital improvement work, which had been scheduled for the winter when water demand is lower.

  • On Monday it became clear that repair at E.L. Smith would take several days and that the limited supply from Rossdale would not be enough to meet the region's full daily demand. The decision was made to immediately stop the capital work at Rossdale and return the plant to full capacity, a process that took until Tuesday morning. We also determined that a mandatory non-essential water ban was required to ensure supply sufficient for drinking water and fire protection. Even with Rossdale at full capacity, there was not enough water to meet demand, and Rossdale does not have the ability to deliver water to all of the city.

  • Repairs commenced at E.L. Smith on Monday, January 29, and by the evening some of the pumps were recovered. However, these were smaller pumps, which could only add limited supply.

  • It was determined, to facilitate the repair of the electrical equipment, the entire E.L. Smith plant needed to be taken offline for approximately 10 hours.

  • On Tuesday, January 30, planning and engineering for the next phase of repairs was completed, which allowed water reserves to build slightly to allow for another extended outage.

  • On Wednesday, January 31, at 9 pm, the E.L. Smith plant was shut down, and further repair on the electrical system replacement of the high-voltage cables began. EPCOR crews and contractors worked through the night and completed the replacement by 6:30 am on Thursday, February 1. A phased restart was then begun, with the larger pumps restarting at 7:45 am.

  • Once the plant was ramped up to full operating capacity, and plant and pump operations stabilized, restoration of the reservoir system began during the day on Thursday and overnight to Friday morning.

  • The production and reservoir supply was evaluated the morning of Friday, February 2 and it was determined that there is sufficient supply to meet normal demand with no restrictions in place, and that there are adequate water resources in the system for critical activities such as fire protection. The water restrictions were lifted. ​

    ​​Past press releases:​

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