Village of McBride office
(Village of McBride)

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

In an effort to cope with fluctuating reservoir levels, the Village of McBride is preparing to expand its water storage so it can hold a 14-day supply, says Mayor Gene Runtz.

In February, Runtz told The Goat an early-year cold snap caused the Village’s water reservoir to fall by eight inches – a drop so drastic, there was no longer enough water to meet all of the community’s needs. During a phone call with The Goat last week, he said the Village is working to expand its water storage capacity to prevent similar scenarios from occurring.

As part of this effort, the Village has hired David Franzmann, an engineer who previously upgraded McBride’s wastewater treatment system. Franzmann has created three preliminary drawings for extra water storage areas, according to Runtz.

“Right now, we barely have enough storage for one day in our pool and underground storage,” Runtz said. “The [storage design] that will be selected will provide an extra 13 days of storage, and that’s huge. That’s what we need to take us through the ups and downs of the weather and things like that.”

Runtz said Franzmann’s designs have been sent to the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, as well as Northern Health for comments and approval. 

The Village has also hired a special projects manager, Philip Strain, who has overseen similar water systems projects for the District of 100 Mile House. Strain is working with Village Public Works Manager Brian Taphorn to oversee the approval and implementation of the expanded storage system.

Strain is in talks with the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship to approve a geotechnical test which will determine where the optimal location for water storage is, Runtz said. After that, a preliminary budget will be created, and Strain will prepare a full report for Council on the design, budget, and comments from the Ministry and Northern Health.

Runtz said the project is being funded by a grant provided by the provincial government. He added that the Province has been very supportive of the Village’s efforts to cope with drought, and he appreciates their cooperation.

“We’re going ahead as fast as we can with approvals to increase our storage area and prevent us, hopefully, from running out of water at any time during the summer,” said Runtz. “We’re pretty confident that [the additional] 13 day storage will make a huge difference on what we’re able to do.”

Once the storage system is implemented, the Village will continue its search for additional water sources, Runtz said. However, efforts to find a long-term water supply for the community are still in their preliminary stages and likely will not be solved soon, he added.

Runtz said he is optimistic the water storage will provide a good solution to the community’s short-term needs, and he is confident in Strain’s ability to carry out the project. He added that he appreciates the support McBride has gotten from the Province.

“I can’t overemphasize how important it is that we’re getting cooperation from the Ministry at every level,” he said. “We’re feeling really positive right now because of this cooperation […] So I feel really good about what’s happening, and I think everybody else should.”