The District of Houston’s oldest water reservoir is in need of repair. (File photo)

The District of Houston’s oldest water reservoir is in need of repair. (File photo)

Council ponders future of water reservoirs

Oldest of two reservoirs in need of repairs

Council has yet to decide if it wants one or two water reservoirs but its consultants have now provided it with some key questions to consider and then answer.

Urban Systems was given the job of assessing the District of Houston’s two water reservoirs and the District’s water needs so that when council does make a decision, it has the answers and information it needs.

The future of the two reservoirs came into focus when a previous study released in 2020 outlined the deteriorating state of No. 1 reservoir which is the oldest one.

Its circular concrete structure is partially buried and has a concrete dome roof but pieces of the roof are falling off, council was told more than a year ago in a memo from former operations manager Chris Lawrence.

Reservoir No. 2, on the other hand, is an above ground, circular steel tank with a dome roof that was completed in 2017 at a cost of $2.34 million thanks to the substantial financial participation of the federal and provincial governments.

The 2020 study presented to council indicated dismantling Reservoir No. 1 could cost $200,000 and replacing it upwards of $3 million.

In a briefing to council at its Oct. 19 meeting, Jared Halter from Urban Systems laid out key considerations for it to consider revolving around replacing, rehabilitating or doing nothing and determining the volume of water storage the District needs.

Having just one reservoir is cheaper than two but limits the District’s flexibility while two reservoirs increases flexibility at a higher cost and supplies the District with older water simply because of increased storage, his presentation indicated.

A key question is the volume of water the District feels is necessary in case of emergency. Based on Houston’s average daily use of 1,100 cubic metres, current emergency storage is calculated to be less than half of that average daily use.

Another key consideration is the ability of the reservoir system to supply the District’s fire department in case of an emergency with Urban Systems concluding that the newest reservoir, No. 2, can likely supply the community’s storage needs if its well supply is included, the Urban Systems report stated.

But the challenge is not so much the reservoir capacity but the ability of the District’s water delivery system to deliver water to the fire department.

“Modelled fire flows within the downtown and industrial area were less than industry guidelines based on land use,” the Urban Systems presentation stated.

“Modelled fire flows were less than Fire Underwriters Survey guidelines for some high fire flow demand sites — but that can be common for these kinds of sites,” the presentation continued of an insurance industry association which provides guidance on firefighting needs.

That’s already known to the District thanks to a study going back to 2006 citing the need to improve the water mains between the reservoirs and the downtown and industrial areas.

The exact condition of the downtown water mains is unknown and upgrades are part of the second phase of the District’s longterm plan to revitalize the community’s core although the full realization of those plans depends upon the District securing senior government grants.

“Water main upgrades in the downtown will also help to service future development in the area in line with council’s official community plan to support densification in the area,” noted District corporate services director Holly Brown.