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​Working Partnerships With Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP)/Advice and Support to Industry

In 2015, EPCOR continued to provide expertise and advice to Provincial Government agencies and the water and wastewater treatment industry in Alberta. Examples include:

  • EPCOR continued to participate in the AEP-led Capital Region-Industry Heartland Water Management Framework initiative and sat on the Advisory Committee and Modelling Sub-Committee. Through this committee, EPCOR provides stakeholder feedback on AEP's initiative to develop a total loading management system for the stretch of the North Saskatchewan River between Devon (upstream of Edmonton) and Pakan (downstream of Edmonton and the Industrial Heartland). More information on this initiative can be found on AEP's website;
  • EPCOR continued to participate on the AEP Standards Advisory Panel provided technical feedback and guidance into the development of revised drinking water standards for the Province. The committee completed its work in early 2015 and produced a report for AEP;
  • EPCOR continued to participate in the Alberta Drinking Water Laboratory Technical Advisory Committee (ADLTAC) that is providing advice to the government on matters related to drinking water testing and development of new drinking water testing requirements;
  • EPCOR hosted a stakeholder consultation meeting with AEP in March on the proposed new drinking water regulations for Alberta and submitted consultation comments to AEP;
  • On an international level, EPCOR continued to support Bob Sandford, as the EPCOR Chair for Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. Our sponsorship continues moving forward;
  • EPCOR staff participated on the Western Canada Section of the American Water Work Association Cross Connection Control Committee and contributed to the AWWA manual M14 Backflow Prevention and Cross-Connection Control: Recommended Practices, Fourth Edition that was published in 2015; and
  • EPCOR participated in a number of industry consultation sessions held by both the Province of Alberta and the City of Edmonton to provide input into the proposed changes to the Municipal Government Act.

​Laboratory Accreditation

The quality of the water testing data produced by EPCOR Water Laboratory adheres to the international management system standard ISO/IEC 17025 “General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories.”

The EPCOR Water Laboratory has been accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 since 2001 by the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA). It successfully retained accreditation in October 2015 after CALA completed an assessment as part of the biannual audit cycle.

As part of our commitment to CALA, several EPCOR employees contributed to the CALA program by volunteering as laboratory assessors and were involved in eight assessments of other laboratories in 2015.

A new laboratory facility was built at the Rossdale Water Treatment Plant to help maintain the high level of water testing capabilities for many years to come. That facility opened in August 2015. A plan was put into place to ensure that all required testing and support functions to the water utility continued during the transition between the two labs.


Watershed and Source Water Protection Programs

EPCOR’s Watershed Protection Program (wpp) has two primary goals:

  • To provide a safe, secure drinking water supply through source water protection principles
  • To ensure minimal effects from our operations on water quality and aquatic ecosystem health in receiving water bodies

    EPCOR recognizes watershed-wide environmental planning is necessary and is best achieved by openly collaborating with all stakeholders. In 2015, epcor updated its three-year rolling Strategic Watershed Protection plan and completed initiatives under four broad categories: watershed planning, monitoring and research, implementation, and education and awareness.

1. Watershed Planning

EPCOR recognizes the importance of working within multiple initiatives and/or frameworks to help meet its commitment to safeguard the health of customers from a source water protection perspective and to minimize the effect of its activities on local water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Planning initiatives and/or frameworks that EPCOR continued to support in 2015 include:

  • North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance (NSWA): EPCOR provides both financial and in-kind support to the NSWA. In 2012, the NSWA published the
  • Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) for the North Saskatchewan Basin after five years of extensive stakeholder engagement and input. The plan lays out recommendations and an approach to manage the North Saskatchewan River watershed, sustain water resources for the long-term and to meet the three strategic goals of alberta’s water for life strategy. The underlying principle of the plan is that no further degradation of water quality should occur and improvements should be made where degradation has occurred, based on water quality objectives proposed for the river. In 2015, EPCOR employees were involved in the IWMP implementation committee and the water quality and instream flow needs working groups of the NSWA. As well, EPCOR was represented on the board of directors of the nswa and is part of the headwaters group;
  • Capital Region-Industrial Heartland Water Management Framework (CRIH-WMF): the Government of Alberta led CRIH-WMF continued through 2015 and EPCOR was directly involved through the advisory committee. This work will set environmental outcomes (including water quality) for the area just upstream of Edmonton to downstream of the proposed industrial development area. The framework includes Maximum Acceptable Loads (MALs) for each of the parameters of concern which is now under stakeholder review;
  • A Regional Plan under the Land Use Framework for the North Saskatchewan River is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2016. In 2014, EPCOR participated in the phase one consultation workshops for the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan and in 2015, participated on the Environmental Quality Management Framework stakeholder engagement sessions;
  • Source Water Protection Plan: A major milestone of 2014 was the completion and publication of EPCOR’s updated Source Water Protection Plan (SWPP) protecting source drinking water. Highlights of the updated plan include detailed water quality and quantity research summaries, comprehensive land use maps, and inclusion of the source risk assessment completed through the Drinking Water Safety Plan process. In 2015, continued investigation and mitigation plans of the key risks outlined in the SWPP were developed. Two of the most significant risks (potential source contamination from spills/releases from upstream oil and gas facilities, or from a spill on an upstream bridge) remained action items in the Drinking Water Safety Plan. As such, work is underway to develop a Geographic Response Plan in partnership with AEP; and
  • Alberta Water Council (AWC): EPCOR, through representation on Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils and the Alberta Lake Management Society, is involved with numerous teams that are making recommendations for management and policy to the AWC and, ultimately, AEP. In 2015, EPCOR continued involvement with the development of a statement of opportunities for Source Water Protection Planning and Lake Conservation and Management. As well an EPCOR employee acted as an alternate board member for the AWC Board, representing the Lake Conservation Sector.

2. Implementation

In 2015, EPCOR continued financial support of the Clear Water Landcare Group which implements agricultural Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) in the North Saskatchewan River basin, such as ‘off stream’ watering systems and fencing off of streams. EPCOR also supported the Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership (ALIDP) through corporate sponsorship. The goal of ALIDP is to reduce urban land use effects on North Saskatchewan River habitat degradation, water quality and ecological health.

3. Research and Monitoring

In 2015, EPCOR continued an enhanced monitoring program for thirteen select tributaries upstream of Edmonton. As part of an effort to better characterize water quality in the headwaters, Clearwater Land Care took additional samples during storm events as data for high flow events were sparse. As part of this work, a pilot project on Strawberry Creek was initiated and more frequent and widespread sampling was completed on the creek (at 11 locations) in an effort to understand water quality drivers on a smaller scale. This multi-year project on a sub-watershed that experiences intensive agricultural activity will provide information on the effectiveness of best management practices. In 2015, this work included community watershed workshops in Strawberry Creek where EPCOR presented water quality data and showed stakeholders how to complete water quality sampling and riparian assessments.

EPCOR also partnered with the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute to develop an ecosystem services model for the NSR watershed and, in particular, Strawberry Creek.

EPCOR also continued to partner with the City of Edmonton to support their Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) through assessment of water quality samples and assistance in monitoring plan development. Quarterly monitoring also continued for Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCP) in the raw and treated water at both the E. L. Smith and Rossdale Water Treatment Plants. As well as providing information relevant to drinking water quality and public health protection, this monitoring program also provided environmental water quality data that was useful for the Capital Region - Industrial Heartland Water Management Framework.

Ongoing assessment and refinement of monitoring programs continued through the NSR Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystem Health Monitoring Group in partnership with the NSWA. This group’s goal is to develop an integrated, efficient and effective water quality monitoring program that meets the needs and interests of major stakeholders in the basin. In 2015 the focus of the work was to take the integrated watershed monitoring plan and work with AEMERA (Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency) to implement the program, through a sustainable funding program.

4. Education and Public Awareness

In 2015, EPCOR sponsored the City of Edmonton’s River Valley Clean Up Project, participated in the City of Edmonton’s River for Life initiative and supported RiverWatch. EPCOR is a long-time sponsor of the City of Edmonton’s River Valley Clean Up as funding is specifically targeted towards public education initiatives that keep garbage and debris out of the North Saskatchewan River. EPCOR provides financial support to Alberta RiverWatch, a science education program for secondary students. As a corporate sponsor, EPCOR subsidizes the fees for disadvantaged students so that they can participate in a guided river-study along the North Saskatchewan River. EPCOR staff also served on the Board of Directors for the Alberta Lake Management Society and Red Deer Watershed Alliance (RDWA).

EPCOR employees spoke at the Bow River Basin Council quarterly forum, the RDWA’s Public Lake Days forum, the NSWA’s Headwaters Meeting, and gave several other conference/workshop presentations on Source Water Protection including one for the Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance. As well, EPCOR gave its sixth annual guest lecture at the University of Alberta to engineering students on watershed and land use management.

Distribution System Upgrades

EPCOR undertakes a number of annual capital and operating programs to maintain and continually improve water quality in the distribution system and to minimize unplanned customer disruptions. In 2015, the following water assets were replaced:

​Water Asset
​Main Line Valves ​321
​Hydrants ​157

Water Main Replacement

EPCOR has replaced approximately 50% of cast iron water mains in Edmonton’s distribution system since 1986. The ongoing replacement of the most deteriorated sections of cast iron pipe has led to continued improvements in overall system reliability and resulted in the lowest average number of water main breaks in Edmonton over the most recent five years since 1960 to 1964. In 2015, 14.1 km of water mains were replaced in Edmonton.

 

1952 to Present, Edmonton, Alberta
Cast Iron Water Mains (km) blue bar, Compared to Number of Breaks (per year) red bar

Water Main Cathodic Protection

​​Water Asset ​Number/Length Replaced​
​​Cast iron distribution Mains ​17.4
​​Steel Transmission Blow-Offs ​1.0​


Transmission Main Blow-Offs

Historically, it was standard practice to connect transmission mains to the sanitary or combined sewer system to allow draining of the distribution system for maintenance work. In 2007 there were more than 200 of these “blow-off chambers” within the EPCOR system. Since these chambers are a direct connection between the water and sewer systems, they could present a cross connection risk if certain conditions occur (for example, if a system depressurization occurs at the same time that a nearby sewer is surcharging due to high rainfall). In 2008, a program to systematically remove these connections from the water network was implemented. EPCOR has committed to remove all High, Medium, and Low Risk chambers in addition to all Negligible Risk chambers connected to the sanitary system by April of 2016. The number and type of blow-offs remaining at the end of 2015 are described below.

Transmission Main Blow-Offs Cross Connections Remaining at the End of 2015

Risk Score Characteristics Number of Chambers ​
End of 2007 End of 2015
High Combined sewer that is in close proximity to a Water Treatment plant and a known surcharge area 7 0
Medium Medium Combined sewer that is in close proximity to a Water Treatment plant or a known surcharge area 34 0
Low Low Combined sewer that is not in close proximity to a Water Treatment plant or a known surcharge area 84 5*
Negligible A sanitary sewer that is not in close proximity to a Water Treatment plant or a known surcharge area, or
A storm or watercourse sewer that is in close proximity to a Water Treatment plant or a known surcharge area.
96 64
Total 221 69

* The 5 remaining low risk cross-connections will not be removed by April 2016 because they are in conflict with the future west LRT expansion. These blow-offs will be abandoned when the water main is relocated to accommodate the track construction.

Main Break Repair

In 2015, Edmonton experienced 277 water main breaks as reported in the final 2015 Performance Based Regulation (PBR) progress report to City of Edmonton. Subsequent to the PBR report being published, one main break was removed from the total. This main break occurred on December 29th, but upon excavation it was discovered it was a service repair and not a main break. The 2015 total main breaks were, therefore, 276, down 113 from our 2014 total and continues the generally decreasing trend we have seen over the past 30 years. Most of the main breaks (234) occurred in cast iron water mains. Since 1985, EPCOR has had an aggressive program of renewal and cathodic protection of these cast iron mains. The long-term trend of a reduction in the number of breaks in the cast iron system since the mid 1980's directly reflects the effectiveness of those programs. EPCOR also has a performance target to repair 93.7 per cent of main breaks within 24 hours. In 2015, 97.44 per cent of the 260 breaks affecting water supply to customers were repaired within 24 hours of the water being shut off, exceeding the target of 93.70 per cent.

Unidirectional Flushing and Hydrant Maintenance

Each year, water mains throughout Edmonton are flushed to remove sediment build-up and biological growth. In 2015, EPCOR continued with the Unidirectional Flushing (UDF) program and flushed 30% of the distribution system. There were 18,938 fire hydrants in the public water system at the end of December 2015. The operation of all fire hydrants located in public right of ways is checked at least twice annually, once as part of the summer UDF\Hydrant Purging program and once as part of the winter check program. This ensures that the hydrants are functional in the event of a fire and the system is compliant with fire code recommendations. EPCOR also has performance measures limiting the amount of time a hydrant can be out of service (no more than 90 days) and limiting the total number of hydrants that can be out of service on any one day (no more than 120). In 2015, zero hydrants were out of service for more than 90 days and 41 hydrants were out of service for more than 30 days. The maximum number of hydrants out of service on any one day was 68. The maximum number of days out of service for any one hydrant was 78.

EPCOR studied the rate of sediment accumulation as a potential way of further optimizing flushing frequency for each area. We were able to estimate the amount and characterize the type of sediments removed during several UDF runs in cast iron (CI), asbestos cement (AC), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) areas. The results showed that there was at least 10 times greater mass of removable sediments in CI areas than in areas with mostly AC or PVC pipes. The chlorine residual was almost unaffected in PVC areas, but significantly deteriorated in CI areas. This study supported the proposal to reduce the flushing frequency in areas of 100% PVC pipes and retain the current flushing cycle in other areas.

EPCOR studied the rate of sediment accumulation in the distribution system to further optimize the flushing frequency for each area of the city. The study, which estimates the amount of particles and characterizes the type of sediments removed during UDF, showed that there was at least 10 times greater mass of removable sediments in CI areas than in areas with mostly AC or PVC pipes. This study supported the proposal to reduce the flushing frequency in areas with PVC pipes.

Lead Response Program

Approximately 2% of Edmonton homes (typically built before 1950) use lead as the material for service pipes. A service pipe is the section that connects the home or business with the municipal water main beneath the street or alley. There are two parts to the service pipe; the section between the water main and the property line is the responsibility of EPCOR and the section from the property line to the home is the responsibility of the property owner.

In 2008, EPCOR proactively initiated a program to address residences and small businesses in the City of Edmonton serviced through old lead service pipes. This program includes:

  • Annual notification (reminders) of residents at all homes and small businesses within the city serviced by lead service pipes;
  • Offer of testing for lead concentration in the tap water for those residents;
  • Offer to provide point-of-use filters that remove lead for customers in homes and small businesses serviced through lead pipes;
  • Prioritized lead service pipe replacement of the EPCOR section; and
  • Public education on the issue of lead in tap water.

In 2015, the residents at all homes or small businesses with a known lead service were once again reminded of the program by letter. As well as sampling water from homes with lead service lines, EPCOR is also sampling from some homes with non-lead service pipes (mainly copper) because older building plumbing is also a potential source of lead in tap water.

The table below summarizes the lead testing results from 2008 to 2015 that has been provided for homes with and without lead service pipes.

Lead Test Results From 2008-2015

Lead Service Pipes Other Service Pipes
Number Homes Samples and Tested 3522 376
% where lead concentration was greater than 0.010 mg/L 30% 8%
% where lead concentration was greater than 0.030 mg/L 5% 0.5%
50th percentile lead concentration (mg/L) 0.0054 0.0004
90th percentile lead concentration (mg/L) 0.023 0.008

 

To compare, the Health Canada Guideline for Canadian Drinking Water Quality health-based Maximum Acceptable Concentration (MAC) for lead is 0.010 mg/L. The lead concentration has been less than the MAC in 70% of homes with lead pipes that were tested. 5% (188 samples) have tested greater than 0.030 mg/L. The lead concentration in the majority (greater than 92.3%) of homes with non-lead service pipe is less than the Health Canada MAC. Residents of all homes and small businesses are encouraged to flush the building plumbing before consuming the water after the water has been stagnant for more than six hours. This can usually be done by running the kitchen faucet for a few minutes.

In 2015 EPCOR conducted a study of 178 addresses spatially distributed across the city using a sampling protocol described as "random daytime sampling". This protocol differs from the Health Canada protocol in that there is no requirement for water stagnation in the pipes before sample collection. The goal of the study was to determine an unbiased estimate of the average lead concentration in the city and will be used to inform future decisions regarding the addition of corrosion control chemicals to the water treatment process. The results of the study are shown in the table below. This study will be continued in 2016 with a goal of sampling from 200 randomly selected addresses.

Results of Random Daytime Testing

Type of Service Line Pipe Lead Concentration (mg/L) ​ ​
Average 90th percentile Count
Non-lead on both EPCOR and private side 0.0018 0.0045 119 (67%)
Unknown material on either EPCOR or private side 0.0017 0.0034 23 (13%)
Lead pipe present at meter or EPCOR side 0.0067 0.0145 36 (20%)

 

EPCOR is avoiding partial service pipe replacements, where the EPCOR piece is replaced but the owner's lead piece remains. Studies have shown that partial replacements are not effective for reducing lead at the tap and may even result in a temporary increase in lead concentration. The priority for replacement is based on the concentration of lead measured at the tap and the presence of high risk individuals in the home (children under five years old and expectant mothers).

As the table show below, there have been 1244 lead services removed from service since 2008— 416 were replaced proactively as part of the lead program, 804 were replaced reactively (due to leaks and other emergency repairs, or as part of water main renewal programs) or were otherwise removed from service. There were approximately 3355 Edmonton homes that still had lead service pipes at the end of 2015.

Lead Service Replacements Comparing Customer Driven Replacements to Maintenance Driven Replacements

Year Customer Driven
due to program 1
Maintenance Driven
due to leaks, main renewal, abandoned
Total
2008 25 65 90
2009 39 46 85
2010 114 36 150
2011 26 169 195
2012 63 120 183
2013 34 109 143
2014 31 162 193
2015 84 97 181
Total 416 804 1244

1Studies have shown that partial replacements are not effective for reducing lead at the tap and may even result in a temporary increase in lead concentration. As a result, EPCOR prefers to switch out lead service lines on the public side if the customer is changing out the lead piece on the private side also. This category is called "customer driven" replacements.

In 2016, EPCOR will be implementing a neighborhood approach to lead service line replacement. EPCOR will provide advanced notice of planned activity in specific neighborhoods to residents living in homes with lead services. This will allow opportunity to plan and coordinate lead service line renewal with the property owner. For in-fill developments EPCOR will be requiring that service line piping material must meet current standards.

Membership in Industry and Research Organizations

EPCOR strives to be an active member in industry organizations that promote public health protection, such as the Water Research Foundation (WaterRF). WaterRF is a not-for-profit organization that coordinates and funds a comprehensive research program related to drinking water. EPCOR renewed its subscription and financial commitment to WaterRF in 2015. As well, EPCOR and its employees were directly involved in a number of WaterRF initiatives. Our roles included:

Member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the following research focus area program:

  • Water Utility Finance: Best Practices for Setting Rates, Financing Capital Improvements and Achieving Public Support

Member of the Project Advisory Committee for the following research projects:

  • An Evaluation of the Value of Structurally Enhanced PVC Pipe;
  • Developing Water Use Metrics and Class Characterization for Categories in the CII Sector;
  • Identifying and Evaluating Opportunities for Reducing Variability of Utility Revenues;
  • Using Next Generation QMRA to Estimate Human Health Risk Posed by Pathogens in Drinking Water; and
  • Selecting Methods for Projecting Life Cycle Asset Management Investment Needs.

EPCOR participated in the following research projects as a participating utility, in-kind contributor, or co-funder:

  • Securing Value: Integrating Risk Governance with Other Business Functions for the International Water Sector;
  • Bench-Scale Evaluation of Alternative Cr(VI) Removal Options for Small Systems;
  • Leveraging Data from Non-Destructive Examinations to Help Select Ferrous Water Mains for Renewal;
  • Utility Risk Management Methodologies for Buried Assets with Improved Triple Bottom Line Understanding of Pipe Failures;
  • Rate Approval Process Communication Strategy and Toolkit;
  • Nitrosamine Occurrence Survey;
  • Main Breaks: State of the Science and Research Roadmap;
  • Residential End Uses of Water, Version 2; and
  • Intelligent Distribution Systems Research Agenda Workshop. 

EPCOR also continued engagement in various university lead research efforts. These included:

  • Providing financial support to the University of Waterloo NSERC Senior Industrial Research Chair in Advancing Treatment and Reducing Risk;
  • In-kind support for the University of Alberta NSERC Strategic Project Innovative Tools for Characterization of New Drinking Water Disinfection By-Products and Health Effects;
  • Financial and in-kind support for the University of Alberta NSERC Collaborative Research and Development ProjectOperational Optimization for the Removal of Cryptosporidium Oocyst Surrogates in Drinking Water Direct Filtration Processes: A Multi-Scale Approach; and
  • Participation in a site review of the NSERC Senior Industrial Research Chair in Drinking Water Treatment at Polytechnique University in Montreal.

EPCOR renewed its membership with the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association and the Canadian Association on Water Quality. EPCOR or its employees were involved in various other industry organizations in different capacities, including:

  • Canadian Water Network – Canadian Leadership Group;
  • Canadian Association on Water Quality (Board Membership);
  • American Waterworks Association;
  • American Waterworks Association—Western Canada Section;
  • Western Canada Water;
  • Canadian Water and Wastewater Association;
  • American Public Works Association; and
  • Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (Board Membership).

Participation In Water For Life and Other AEP Initiatives

EPCOR continues to actively participate in Water for Life and other Alberta Environment and Parks initiatives. EPCOR is involved in Watershed Protection and Advisory Councils (WPACs) and supports Watershed Stewardship groups. Activities in 2015 included:

  • ongoing involvement with the Alberta Water Council. An EPCOR employee sat on the board as an alternate and contributed to development of new projects on Lake Management and Source Water Protection;
  • direct financial and in-kind support to the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance and representation on the board, executive (Treasurer) and technical committees;
  • participation on the Bow River Basin Council initiatives; and
  • contribution to the development and implementation of the AEP-led Bow River Phosphorous Management Plan.

Research on Impacts of Climate Change on Source Water

EPCOR supports a number of Canadian research studies that are looking at the impacts of climate change on source water. In 2015 we continued our support of the following research:

"Sustainable Urban Water Management in the Context of Climate Variability and Change"
This University of Regina study led by Dr. Dave Sauchyn was co-funded by EPCOR and the City of Calgary, and major support was provided by Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES). This latest two-year study, completed in November 2015, was supported financially and through in-kind support included staff hours and the acquisition of a 2-D hydrodynamic river water quality model for the North Saskatchewan River (NSR). This model will allow EPCOR to build on the findings of this latest study to examine how changes in NSR seasonal flows may impact water quality.

The study completed for both the NSR and Bow River provided historic weekly river flow rates (m3/s) that were calculated for years as far back as 1060 A.D. This latest work expanded upon the earlier tree ring analysis data and 2011 study ("Past, Recent and Future Hydroclimactic Variability, North Saskatchewan River") that related tree ring characteristics to river flow monitoring station gauge data. The reconstructed historic weekly river flow rates show the extreme variability in the hydrologic water balance that has occurred in the past one thousand years in Alberta. This is even before any human-induced changes to the climate. EPCOR is considering support of a follow-up study to this latest work that would overlay future climate change scenarios onto historic flow rate data to project a range of possible future water supply scenarios for the decades ahead.

Next steps for EPCOR include forming a working group to develop a Climate Change Strategy. This strategy would include developing management plans for various multi-year drought scenarios and conversely flood conditions in the NSR basin. Mitigation and adaption approaches will be an important component of these plans to ensure resiliency of the Edmonton Waterworks System in the 21st century. EPCOR has also expressed its support for the proposed Global Water Futures (GWF) – a seven-year study that, if funded by the Federal Government, would involve numerous research teams from across Canada and in which EPCOR could serve as a water utility case example. This study would facilitate the development of risk management approaches so communities across Canada could adapt to future expected water resource challenges that will come from a changing climate and hydrologic water balance.

Energy Efficiency Initiatives

EPCOR's energy efficiency initiatives focus on improving energy related asset efficiency at the water treatment plants, the field reservoirs, and the booster stations. EPCOR not only continues to monitor the water treatment plant energy performance, but also started to monitor the reservoir energy efficiency in three existing pressure zones in 2015.

Energy Indices

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual Total
System Energy Index 685 665 693 653 604 621 626 596 670 669 673 655 651
Rossdale Energy Index 593 587 643 600 491 548 525 459 578 577 586 532 560
EL Smith Energy Index 565 539 551 524 518 507 528 508 546 545 529 545 534
Zone I Reservoirs Index 295 348 339 305 240 234 232 229 250 253 324 474 294
Zone II Reservoirs Index 233 231 231 222 205 219 207 206 211 219 234 235 221
Zone III Reservoirs Index 105 105 103 103 101 109 100 89 99 99 101 102 101

 

The overall system energy efficiency performance in 2015 exceeded the target and benchmark of 670 by 2.8%. The indices show a consistent downward improvement trend.

 

Although EPCOR has been successful in continuous energy efficiency improvement over past few years, there are more challenges ahead. The population of the capital region has been growing fast with an annual average population increase of 2.3% over the past 10 years. This trend has been consistent even in the recent economic downturn. In 2015, the total number residential water accounts increased about 3.6% over 2014. However, the new properties are mostly located at the city's edges. More pumping energy is required to overcome the head loses in the water distribution system to reach these new properties. Aging infrastructure also negatively impacts energy efficiency. To meet these challenges, EWSI has implemented a number of energy efficiency initiatives to maximize pumping efficiency and minimize energy loss in the system.

The energy initiatives for 2015 included:

  • EWSI conducted a major review and assessment of its assets to prepare the 2017 to 2021 next PBR rate filing period. Energy efficiency improvements have been integrated into the proposed capital programs such as replacing reservoir pumps and valves with higher energy efficiency units earlier than their normal life cycle, upgrading building envelops with better window or window insulation, HVAC upgrades, office lighting improvements with LED lights, etc.; and 
  • Upgrades to the Millwoods Reservoir pump station to allow for more energy efficient booster mode operation progressed and targeted completion is 2016.

The energy initiatives for 2016 are:

  • EPCOR will continue an annual program to upgrade capital assets to improve energy efficiency;
  • EPCOR is planning to implement a new energy index KWH/(ML*water residential account) to better reflect the challenges in population growth. This new energy index will be reported to City of Edmonton as public information starting in 2017; and
  • Going forward, EPCOR will be exploring options for green energy in the Edmonton water system.

Active Staff Recruitment

EPCOR strives to attain a variety of employment achievements in Canada. In 2015 we were named one of Alberta's Top 70 Employers for the 11th year in a row, Canada's top employers for Young People for the fifth year, and the Corporate Knight's Future 40 Responsible Corporate Leaders in Canada list. We have a dedicated Talent Sourcing team that focuses on finding top quality candidates from the external talent pool. We also focus on internal employee development and training for technical and leadership positions. EPCOR's Talent Management Department operates the EPCOR School of Business which hosts a multitude of leadership training and professional development courses. EPCOR managers are increasingly involved in succession planning to support employee development to ensure we have a strong pool of talent, now and in the future. EPCOR has been conducting engagement surveys since 2012. In 2012 EPCOR's overall engagement score surpassed other large Canadian organizations that made up the benchmark group. In 2016 EPCOR is planning another company wide full Engagement Survey. All Managers are expected to follow up on survey results by creating action plans in collaboration with employees to continually improve overall engagement. These efforts ensure that as we move forward, our teams will remain strong and engaged and will provide our customers with safe and reliable water services while meeting or exceeding environmental requirements.

Water Conservation Program

EPCOR Water is interested in ensuring a strong water supply remains in place for generations to come. We are looking for ways to increase awareness within our community regarding water usage and conservation. While most homes and businesses in the City are generally conservative users there are still opportunities for us all to consider. EPCOR implements a variety of industry best management efficiency practices which have resulted in significant water efficiency improvements in Edmonton. Some of our 2015 conservation initiatives included:

  • Partnership between the City of Edmonton, RONA and EPCOR to host a Home$aver Eco sale. This event promotes the use of water and energy efficient products, general education and awareness. EPCOR's participation in this event included sponsorship and promotion of rain barrels for outdoor water conservation and low-flow shower heads for indoor use;
  • Partnering with government and business to support water efficiency and conservation programs including: City of Edmonton Environment Week, World Water Day and Canada Water Week;
  • Promoting conservation and water efficiency through social media channels and updating efficiency information and tools on EPCOR's website to help customers reduce their water wastage; and
  • Promotion of online tools and resources for teachers and students that support education around water and wise water use:
        • Esmart Kids: An online resource for teachers and students built to encourage learning about using water wisely, and electricity safety/efficiency. During 2015, we saw 17,176 interactions with this site at: http://smartkids.epcor.ca
        • Water Quest: A joint project between EPCOR and Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. Throughout 2015, we saw 2748 Visits and 12,106 page views of this resource at: https://waterquest.ca/

Water usage trends are monitored regularly to ensure the conservation program is meeting operational objectives as well as our customers' needs. The figure below shows the trend of Edmonton's total water usage between 1971 and 2015. While population has steadily increased over this period, total water consumption has leveled off (with year-to-year fluctuations) and per capita water use has been on the decline since the late 1970's. In 2015, the total per capita water use was 288 litres per person per day (L/p/d). Residential water use was 199 L/p/d. Due to the hot, drought-like conditions of the summer of 2015, both total and residential per person water use increased slightly over 2014 due to increased outdoor use. However, Edmontonians' continued conversion to high efficiency toilets and clothes washers is projected to decrease per capita water use over the long term.

In comparison, the Alberta Urban Municipality Association (AUMA) has set targets to achieve an average per capita residential water use of 195 L/p/d and a total per capita water use of 341 L/p/d (which is 30% below Alberta municipal sector reported water use from 2001-2006) by 2020. EPCOR has achieved the total per capita metric since 2009, and first achieved the 195 l/p/d metric in 2014.

Going forward, EPCOR's conservation platform will focus on identifying and addressing inefficient water use in different high use customer classes or groups.

Edmonton Water Usage 1971-2015

 

 

System Water Losses

EPCOR has a program for monitoring and controlling water losses in the distribution system and has adopted the Infrastructure Leakage Index (ILI) as the primary measure of water loss performance. The ILI is the ratio of real water losses compared to the lowest losses possible if all available best management practices were successfully applied. The ILI was developed by the International Water Association (IWA) and is the industry recommended metric to measure the effectiveness of managing and maintaining a municipal water system. It is considered a good overall measure of system performance because it adjusts for water system size and complexity and also enables comparisons between different water systems. For a system of the same size and characteristics as Edmonton's, the Water Research Foundation suggests an ILI of > 3.0 to 5.0. Based on these factors, EPCOR has set an ILI benchmark of < 3.0 as a reasonable goal. The ILI computed for the EPCOR Edmonton waterworks system for the past five years is provided in the table below.

ILI EPCOR Benchmark Target
2011 1.47 <3.0
2012 1.29 <3.0
2013 1.27 <3.0
2014 1.46 <3.0
2015 1.14¹ <3.0

EPCOR's consistently low ILI values indicate that EPCOR is managing real losses in a qualified manner. This can be attributed to the cumulative effects of the following factors:

  • EPCOR has been actively renewing water mains for 30 years and maintains a strong commitment to continually replace cast iron piping (that is more prone to breaking and leakage) with PVC piping.
  • EPCOR maintains a proactive leak management strategy that targets areas with lead services and areas close to the river valley, where the slopes are unstable and susceptible to sliding. In 2013, the program was expanded to include leakage surveys of the older neighbourhoods that were selected for neighbourhood renewal by the City.
  • EPCOR has an active customer meter replacement program that ensures average meter life remains low. This results in high levels of meter accuracy and confidence in sales figures.
  • EPCOR has a Performance Based Regulation requirement regarding main break repairs. This ensures real losses associated with main breaks are minimized.
  • EPCOR tracks a large portion of unbilled authorized consumption through the hydrant permit program. This ensures accurate volumes are used to calculate real losses.
  • Edmonton's clay based impermeable soil conditions ensure that most major leakage seeps to the surface close to the leak. This allows citizens to promptly report main breaks.
  • Significant effort has been spent in the last couple of years to manage the amount of water used during new water distribution system commissioning in new subdivisions. This has included programs to ensure proper use of pipe lubricants to reduce unnecessary flushing for taste and odor control and implementation of flushing programs in non-contiguous development in the early stages of subdivision construction. As development levels increase to maintain water quality residuals with normal customer consumption levels these flushing programs, which are fully metered and charged to the developer cease.

¹The 2015 Water Loss Audit is not yet reviewed and published and therefore the ILI is subject to change.