Water bottle fill stations on City fire hydrants are back for good

Medicine Hat – A program to provide publicly accessible safe drinking water in the summer will be implemented permanently in Medicine Hat. The City has begun installing the seasonal public water bottle fill stations across the community and sending preliminary water samples away for testing.

The equipment, which connects to existing fire hydrants to deliver clean drinking water in public spaces, will be bagged and unavailable for use until test results confirm safe water quality.

Testing consists of flushing the system and taking water samples that are sent for microbiological water analysis from the Provincial Lab. Results are expected early next week at which time the units can be placed in operation for public use if the results come back clear.

The stations will be installed in the following ten public locations in 2023:

  1. Big Marble Go Centre at 2000 Division Avenue NW
  2. Jeffries Trail near 602 4 Avenue NE
  3. East edge of Parkview Close NE
  4. City Hall at 580 First Street SE
  5. Towne Square at 603 First Street SE
  6. Strathcona Island Park near the Heritage Pavilion
  7. Carry Drive Trail near 78 Carter Crescent SE
  8. Saamis Rotary Park
  9. South Ridge Trail near 4803 Southlands Drive SE (by Masterpiece Southland Meadows)
  10. South Boundary Road SE behind Home Depot

The City of Medicine Hat launched a pilot project in 2022 to test the community’s usage and interest in publicly accessible drinking water. In a poll conducted on the City’s Shape Your City page, 90 per cent of respondents wanted to see the program continue each summer. In the more in-depth survey, 47.9 per cent of respondents wanted the program to continue even if it meant increased fees, and 37.5 per cent said it depended on how much it will cost.

The units were modified through the pilot and the final cost per unit is approximately $1,300. Each unit is built using parts from regular City Assets inventory. In 2022, the stations delivered the equivalent of 118,000 one-litre bottles of water to thirsty residents and pets. The total cost of the water to supply the program (including the water used for flushing and testing) was just over $550. The cost to implement this program will be absorbed in the City Assets operating budget and will not impact any resident rates or fees.

“We considered the pilot to be a resounding success,” said Pat Bohan, Director of City Assets. “We made modifications to the equipment, like adding a timer to automatically flush the hydrants periodically, and laid gravel around areas that were prone to becoming muddy. But we’re happy to report this program is here to stay.”

The water in the fire hydrants is the same treated, potable drinking water distributed to businesses and households, and undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it continues to be safe to drink.

Each water bottle fill station is designed so that the stream of water is protected to only allow freefall into a water bottle, cup or bowl. Patrons are not able to drink directly from the spout, reducing the risk of contamination. Each of the ten stations are disinfected weekly.

Thirteen litres of water sits above ground within the vertical column of the fire hydrants, so water may be warm or discoloured when the tap is first opened especially on hot, sunny days. Partway through the 2022 season, staff installed timers that automatically flush water at defined intervals. The City still recommends running the water for a short time before filling a bottle to ensure it is an enjoyable temperature to drink.

Residents can easily locate a public water station by looking for the blue water droplet dots on the City’s iMap at www.medicinehat.ca/iMap.

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