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When the well goes dry, we know the worth of water: Ben Franklin

By Michelle Panko BSA, PAg, Program Information Specialist

April 2020

Michael and Theresa Fleury
Michael and Theresa Fleury installed a deep-buried
pipeline on their ranch to improve their operation's
water access and sustainability.

What would you do if your well went dry? It was January, and colder than a well-digger’s ankles, when Michael and Theresa Fleurys well went dry on their cow/calf operation north of Aberdeen, Sask. Hauling water for 650 head of cattle was not a sustainable long-term solution, and all attempts at test holes in the area came up dry. Their only feasible option was to install a water intake into the adjacent South Saskatchewan River.

Aware that a river intake project would have some special considerations, the Fleurys hired a consultant to advise on the design work and any regulatory requirements or approvals that might be needed. Several regulatory agencies were also involved in the process, helping ensure the project ended in a safe, sustainable water source for the Fleurys' cattle.

The Water Security Agency worked with them early in the planning phase to develop a site-specific construction plan. This involved acquiring an Aquatic Habitat Protection Permit, which is required prior to starting work on any project that occurs in, or near, water. The Fleurys' permit outlined a number of conditions that were necessary to access the river and install the intake pipe in an environmentally responsible manner.

The Fisheries Protection Program of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) then reviewed their proposal to ensure that the project would not result in serious harm to fish or prohibited effects on listed aquatic species at risk, as outlined in the Fisheries Act and Species at Risk Act respectively.

Rock deflection berm
A rock deflection berm was constructed adjacent to the
proposed intake to create a slack water area to work in.

From there, the Fleurys made an application to the Water Security Agency for a Water Rights Licence (To Use Surface Water) and an Approval to Construct Works. They requested to withdraw water at a rate of approximately five to 10 gallons per minute, or 1,200,000 gallons per year.

Construction was timed to occur during low-water conditions and outside sensitive timing windows for fish spawning. A rock deflection berm with geo-tech fabric was constructed adjacent to the proposed intake to create a slack water area to work in. All machinery and equipment had to be clean and in good working order, and the track hoe was equipped with a spill kit. At the completion of the project, the berm and geo-tech fabric were removed and the river's edge was restored to its pre-existing state.

"After the pre-construction work, we dug a 30-metre trench, nine feet deep and four feet wide, into the river using a track hoe," Michael said. "Then we put down two feet of crushed rock at the bottom of the trench and installed a perforated HDPE pipe."

Lowering water pipeline into the trench
The pipe was lowered into the trench, complete with
cement weights on the pipe so that it would sink down
to the bottom, avoiding floatation.

They used geotextile material to cover the pipe, which was weighted and lowered into the trench to avoid flotation. The pipe was then completely covered with seven feet of crushed rock. At the base of the shore and on the end of the pipe, about eight feet deep, a valve was installed.

From there they trenched 40 feet toward dry land, where a vertical well/reservoir pipe was installed. The river water pressure forces the water through the crushed rock and horizontally through the perforated pipe to the vertical pipe/well, where the submersible pump was placed. From the vertical well, they directionally drilled to the house, where the existing infrastructure was located, to distribute the water to all of their livestock water bowls.

Through consultation and planning, the Fleurys were able to ensure the success of their project and their ability to access program funding by adhering to the regulatory requirements and approvals necessary for a water development project of this nature. Ensuring a healthy environment, especially when performing activities that may have adverse or unintended environmental effects, is an important responsibility.

The Fleurys are happy with the completed project, and said "the quality and quantity of water from the river has been exceptional for our livestock to drink."

The Fleurys received funding support for this project under the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program. This program is part of a suite of programs available under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a $388 million investment by federal and provincial governments in strategic initiatives for the Ministry of Agriculture. For more information call toll-free 1-866-457-2377.

This article was originally published in Agriview.

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