At 3

At 3

How water gets from the reservoir to our taps

This 4-part feature series explains the problems with Cranbrook’s pipes.

  • Jun. 10, 2013 9:00 a.m.

We all know Cranbrook is built on a hill. Drive south from Baker Street towards the edge of town and you’ll be driving uphill the whole way.

This situation is both a blessing and a curse for Cranbrook’s pipes — the way we get our water, the city’s water distribution system.

It’s a blessing because the water naturally flows down through the pipes from the reservoir, outside Cranbrook in the southern Gold Creek area. We don’t need to pump water through the pipes; we don’t need to use energy to improve water pressure.

It’s a curse because we actually need to reduce the water pressure in much of Cranbrook, and quite drastically at that. At Cranbrook’s lowest point, where Sandor Rentals is located, if the pressure wasn’t reduced, you’d turn on the shower and the water would blow a hole through your chest.

What’s more, the water pressure means our pipes wear a lot faster. And that’s expensive.

For the past three years, this reporter has spent one day each spring with City of Cranbrook Director of Public Works Joe McGowan. The first year, Joe took me to see where Cranbrook’s water falls as snow and how it is collected. Year two, we looked at the wastewater system, the quite unique way the city gets rid of our sewage.

This year, Joe and I are taking a closer look at the pipes that deliver water to our homes.

In Cranbrook, there are 181 kilometres of pipes, 606 fire hydrants, 1,518 valves and 13 pressure reducing stations. The total value of our water system is $118,333,000.

Our water falls as snow before forming Gold Creek and Joseph Creek. The city collects our water supply from both creeks, storing it in Phillips Reservoir.

That’s where Joe and I start our tour, standing at the top of the dam, looking down on the town below us. Except Cranbrook is so far below us that we can’t see much of it; only the highest parts of the industrial area are visible.

Water gains pressure the lower in elevation it flows, so the location of the reservoir is significant.

“The town is a long ways below us. We start off with all this energy sitting here. The challenge is to contain it. We want to reduce this energy while still giving the customer the water pressure they need,” explains Joe.

Measuring the energy in water is a bit like measuring the energy in your vehicle’s tires – both are measured in psi, or pounds per square inch.

When it gushes out of Phillips Reservoir and starts its journey to Cranbrook, our water is around 40 psi.

By the time it reaches the first homes in Cranbrook, in the Highlands neighbourhood, the pressure is up to 120 psi.

Engineers calculate the pressure in a pipe by looking at the difference in elevation between the reservoir and the home. For instance, the elevation of the reservoir is 3,583 feet. My house is at 3,225 feet elevation. So if the city did nothing to reduce the pressure in the water, when I turned on my kitchen tap the water would gush out at 155 psi.

That would be bad, Joe points out.

“If the pressure goes above 80, most of the plumbing fixtures in your house wouldn’t last very long,” he says.

“At 260 psi, the water would strip all the flesh off your hand. Your dishwasher would explode in three or four seconds.”

Thankfully, the city goes to great lengths to make sure the pressure is reduced to within the comfortable range of 42 to 65 psi.

Pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Townsman for the second part of “Under Pressure”, where we look at how the city reduces the pressure in our water mains, and some of the problems with our pipes.

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook.
Graduation ceremony in the works for MBSS Class of 2021

The Mount Bake Secondary School Class of 2021 will have a graduation… Continue reading

After being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Wasa Triathlon is being organized for August. Bulletin file photo.
Information released for Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon scheduled for August

In 2020 the COVID pandemic forced the Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon to… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read