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Designing Bulk Water Dispensing Stations for Northern Climates

Jay Morrison
Designing Bulk Water Dispensing Stations for Northern Climates 764 0

Water distribution in Canada's northern communities presents many challenges.

Capital costs for piped water systems are high, and the systems face operating challenges during periods of extreme cold. Above-ground systems are common, as an installation in the permafrost brings its own challenges.

Most northern communities address these water distribution challenges by utilizing bulk water dispensing truckfill stations to meet the community's needs.

Bulk water dispensing stations offer communities a safe and cost-effective water distribution method well suited to northern climates.

Advancement of dispensing systems has allowed for standalone, automated stations, which can be conveniently located to facilitate customer access while ensuring the security of supply and control over the water distribution system.

Ninilchik, Alaska

The community of Ninilchik, Alaska has a bulk water filling station to meet their water dispensing needs. Located on the western coast of the Kenai Peninsula on the Cook Inlet, this community is home to 900 residents and has been settled since 1847.

Water has traditionally been obtained by hauling or wells and may vary significantly in quality and source from household to household.

A bulk dispensing station is well suited to meet the community's needs. Yet, as with all northern communities, unique considerations have been specified for the station design process.

The average temperatures of Ninilchik range from 7C to 15C in the summer and -10C to -3C in the winter months. While less extreme than in many other northern communities, these operating conditions needed to be addressed in the design of the station.

In order to address these concerns, the station enclosure was insulated to protect against heat loss, and a second heater was installed to provide a backup heat source within the station.

The external access terminal is located within a steel access box, and warm air from inside the station is circulated over the terminal by a small fan to provide constant heat to any exposed screens and the controlling devices.

Flowpoint Access Terminal

In addition, these systems can increase revenue by ensuring that all customer transactions are captured and recorded. This information can then be used to automatically generate invoices and further reduce administration costs.

In addition to climate considerations, the Ninilchik station stands to serve residents and trucking firms with varying volume needs, so an automated coin operation feature was requested.

This system will allow users to pay at the station with cash, simplifying the management of station payments and thus lowering administration costs.

Thicker steel walls for the access terminal were introduced to the system to deter vandalism and ensure the security of any on-site payments.

The automation features built into the Ninilchik system allow the municipality to control access by creating customer accounts.

Once set up, customer usage and the information used to generate invoices can be automatically tracked. These features provide monitoring, security, and control over access to the community's water supply.

In addition, these systems can increase revenue by ensuring that all customer transactions are captured and recorded. This information can then be used to automatically generate invoices and further reduce administration costs.

Crow Reservation, MT

When selecting a bulk water dispensing system, northern communities have many options available to meet their needs, ranging from the simple addition of an access terminal to an existing municipal system to the installation of a standalone turn-key bulk water dispensing unit that needs to be connected to the client's water source and power.

Flowpoint installed bulk water dispensing station in Whitehorse

Preassembled systems like the station in Ninilchik are factory tested to ensure that they arrive in a community in working order, allowing for problem-free installation. Modern bulk water dispensing systems are customized to meet purchasers' unique requirements.

Flow rates can be tailored to service the tank sizes of the community's customers. Multiple distribution points can be designed into a single filling station when many customers must be serviced.

Whitehorse, Yukon

The climate considerations of the North may require additional insulation, heating, or circulation systems to ensure reliable operation and safety of the system. Some communities may even opt to install their stations on heated pads to prevent any spilled water from freezing.

An example of the variation in station design according to the needs of each community is apparent in a recently constructed station in Whitehorse, which has varying sizes of fill lines, protection against weather and freezing, and a chlorine residual monitoring system for all water that is dispensed for potable purposes.

MD 124 – Smith, Alberta

Stations can be equipped with automated data capture and communications capability. Options include cellular, internet, or satellite links, which may vary depending on the infrastructure available within the community.

Stations can be equipped with automated data capture and communications capability. Options include cellular, internet, or satellite links, which may vary depending on the infrastructure available within the community.

Lessons learned

For projects to be successful in the unique operating environment of the North, they must be tailored to the specific needs of the communities they serve.

Improving the security of a community's dispensing system, increasing revenue, and lower costs are all measures of a successful project.

Flowpoint successful bulk water station projects

In remote areas, a single station may service an entire community, so system reliability and the ability to provide continuous access to all users are key factors in system selection.

To succeed with these projects, it is crucial that they are well-planned and executed and that the expertise is available to provide remote assistance.

It takes experience working with northern communities and cooperation between clients, engineers, and suppliers to meet these challenges.

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Jay Morrison
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Jay Morrison

I have been in the bulk water dispensing station controls and septage receiving station controls world for over 20 years. Together with the team at Flowpoint, we have helped over 700 communities in North America implement our turn-key solutions, cloud-based software, and controls to help them better manage their bulk water dispensing and septage receiving processes.

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