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Rural Water Project featured in Municipal World

Image of Installation of Pipeline
Adapted from an article written by Michael Archer, (Communications Coordinator, retired March 2023) for Municipal World and published in March, 2023.

Rural municipalities across Canada are grappling with the challenges of economic growth and development in the face of declining population and lack of infrastructure. In Saddle Hills County, a potable water delivery system, which is hoped to hold the key to economic and population growth, is being built.

The current allocations of water licenses in Alberta are coming under stress, and continued future economic growth will depend on substantial and reliable sources of water. The County has decided to do something about that by constructing a new raw water supply intake from the Peace River.

Saddle Hills is a rural municipality consisting of 381 farms, a diverse agricultural community producing crops, including pulses (most notably peas), cereals, canola, and legumes. It also features livestock such as bison, elk, goats, and sheep. The municipality also includes large and diverse oil and gas and forestry industries.

Being such a large, rural municipality comes with its own unique challenges, such as ensuring reliable sources of water, internet, and transportation.

The County’s strategic location provides easy access to two major airports in neighbouring Grande Prairie and Fort St. John. Both airports offer commercial passenger services to centres such as Prince George, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. BC Rail service is available nearby in the Village of Rycroft, Hamlet of Woking, and City of Dawson Creek.
Saddle Hills is part of the G5 group of municipalities, which includes Birch Hills County, MD of Spirit River #133, Town of Spirit River, and Village of Rycroft.

With all these economic advantages, the County has been devoting substantial time and resources to adding reliable water to better the lives of its current residents. This will also provide serious opportunities for economic growth through those industries that rely on secure sources of water.


Making sure that everybody has access to clean and safe water is a top priority. While citizens in Woking have water and sewage services provided by the County, rural residents have (until recently) needed to rely on truck fill stations to supply themselves with potable water, as is the case in most rural areas. While this can be inconvenient in such a large area, the use of online water accounts allows residents to have access to potable water 24/7 and manage their accounts online.

In 2015, the County began building a series of strategically places water treatment plants to provide truck fill opportunities for rural residents. Now they no longer need to drive to Dawson Creek or Spirit River for water. In the past five years, approximately 150 households and businesses have been provided with water, and 320 kilometres of pipeline has been installed.

The County now has four plants and has invested in the necessary infrastructure to provide potable water delivery directly to its residents. Initially, landowners were required to pay a $10,000 connection fee, but in 2022, the County reverse this and is reimbursing all the customers who have paid this fee to date.


In September 202, Saddle Hills County announced a project it had been working on since 2015. The project aims to provide an unlimited and reliable source of water, drawn from the Peace River, to benefit the Central Peace Region as a whole.

This includes the construction of a new raw water supply intake from the Peace River, as well as approximately 36 kilometres of new raw water pipeline, with an anticipated two year construction schedule. In 2022, the County was awarded a $2 million grant for the design of a Central Peace Regional Water Treatment Plant to aid in this process.

The project is made possible by the Province of Alberta, the Government of Canada, and Saddle Hills County. The $40 million required includes $16 million in funding from the federal government and $20 million from the province, with Saddle Hills providing the balance. Phases 1 and 2 of the project are scheduled to take three to five years.

“We look forward to proceeding with this exciting project and its associated benefits to the long-term sustainability of the Central Peace Region. The project will provide a reliable source of water for residents, business, and industry.”
- Reeve Alvin Hubert


The Peace River Basin is part of the largest water basin area in Alberta, spanning nearly one-third of the entire province. There is an annual output of 68.2 billion cubic metres, as well as:

  • an average of 2,100 cubic metres per second;
  • a minimum of 344 cubic metres per second;
  • and a maximum of 9,790 cubic metres per second

Oil and gas operations are a prominent feature throughout Saddle Hills with the land south of Highway 49 predominantly used by oil and gas operations.

For the Central Peace Regional Water Project to be successful, and to aid in economic development initiatives, the County also has the following supporting infrastructure in place:
Waste - There are Class 2 landfills available in the neighbouring County of Grande Prairie and the Municipal District of Greenview. There is also a well-developed internal waste management structure and a specialized Environmental Services Department with four transfer stations and seven collection sites. Regular participation in government initiatives, such as the ‘Alberta Ag-Plastic. Recycle It!’ Program, to ensure residents don’t have to travel great distances to access important services.

Roads - Highway 2 and Highway 49 run north to south, east to west through Saddle Hills County. These corridors are used regularly by heavy duty vehicles and are well maintained by the province. The extensive local road network is maintained by a large fleet of municipal graders and gravel trucks and used by local farm traffic and industry on a daily basis.

Rail - Saddle Hills County is on the Canadian National Railway rail line adjacent to Highway 2, connecting to Edmonton and the two major western ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

Air Travel - Regional airports can be easily reached in Spirit River, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, and Grande Prairie.

Emergency Services - Saddle Hills County has five volunteer fire departments, manned by local firefighters and medical first responders. Modern, fully equipped fire halls are in strategic locations throughout the County to provide rapid and effective response for industry, forestry, business, and residents. Support is also provided to neighbouring communities, such as the Tomslake Fire Department, to ensure the safety of the whole community.

As part of the rural water initiative, the County will also be providing an on-site source of water to its fire halls, meaning that emergency services can more effectively serve the community without the need for truck fills.


The Central Peace Regional Water Project would not be possible without the contributions of residents and neighbouring communities. It is important to give back to the community that sustains us.

Council regularly gives grants to local and area community organizations, individuals, and students and provides financial help throughout the Central Peace. If it benefits one community, it benefits us all.

The approach taken by Saddle Hills County to providing potable water and services to residents is unique in its breadth and scope. Being such a large, rural community, it can be challenging to find ways to provide all residents with equal access to essential amenities.

By taking an innovative approach, and absorbing the entirety of the installation costs, the County hopes to remove some of the financial barriers that would dissuade landowners choosing to stay in, or move to, Saddle Hills County.

If you would like a copy of Municipal World, with the original article, please contact the Communications Coordinator at (780) 864-3760.

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