Waterline construction and upkeep may not be the most romantic of topics, but as the British-American poet W.H. Auden wrote back in 1957, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”
To that end, the Town of Pincher Creek is putting first things first by updating the mapping for the water main network in the town’s geographic information system, or GIS.
A GIS is a framework for gathering, managing and analyzing data, particularly in organizing spatial information into layers of information in maps and other visual representations.
Water mains are large pipes buried underground that carry treated water from the treatment plant to homes and businesses.
Currently, when town employees go to service the water main network, the information provided through the GIS is not accurate, complicating maintenance work.
The town is now moving forward in addressing this gap of information thanks to a $35,200 grant through the Municipal Asset Management Program, offered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and funded by the federal government.
Grant money is awarded to municipalities in order to help them make informed decisions on repairing and replacing infrastructure.
An application for funding was submitted last spring. About 25 per cent of municipalities across the country applied for MAMP grants, making the process incredibly competitive. Pincher Creek was announced Feb. 24 as one of 25 municipalities selected in Alberta.
To receive the $35,200, the town had to commit to contributing 20 per cent of the project cost. The project itself must be completed by March 1, 2022.
The grant will help the town survey the existing water main network and compare the gathered information with existing records to identify discrepancies. Corrections will then be added to the GIS program.
Alexa Levair, Pincher Creek’s capital project and asset co-ordinator, says the overarching goal is to merge the updated GIS program with the town’s asset management software to keep track of important infrastructure information, such as pipe size, material and the year it was installed.
Surveying the water main network, she adds, is the first step in a bigger project to help inform long-range capital planning.
“It is a very ambitious project because it’s not just for water,” she says. “This overall program would be for our water, our sewer, our roads, our sidewalks, our facilities — we would be able to pull all this kind of information.”
Integrating the systems would give the town a maintenance work order system that would readily show how much money and how much effort has been put toward maintaining particular assets, something Ms. Levair says would help the town determine when it is best to repair certain infrastructure or when a complete replacement is needed.
Establishing an accurate database will also ensure needed information is available for the future since a lot of necessary information is known only to current staff.
“That’s information we don’t have anywhere in a database right now,” Ms. Levair says. “It’s just in the brains of our current operations staff. We’re trying to get to the point where data is all in one place so we don’t run the risk of someone retiring with all this information in their head.”
Ms. Levair is hopeful the project will lead to mapping that will give an overview for expected capital investment from the town for critical infrastructure replacements.
The mapping would take into account several factors such as age, condition, material and risks associated with possible failure.
The resulting metric would be able to give town council a detailed map as to when to budget capital funds for certain asset management projects.
As a recently elected member of the Infrastructure Asset Management Alberta board of directors, Ms. Levair is excited that Pincher Creek is engaging in a process that will promote long-term sustainability.
“I am very proud of Pincher Creek’s commitment to asset management,” she says.
The list of other Alberta municipalities receiving funding through MAMP and FCM is available online at http://bit.ly/AB_MAMP.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze