Many countries relies on it’s nature and it’s landscape to attract visitors and tourism. For many countries it’s the primary attraction to bring visitors to the country especially a country bless like Canada with some of the most beautiful natural places in the world. So it makes sense to protect this asset for many reasons. The combination of industrialisation, growing population and an aging sewage system is a problem shared by thousands of developed cities across the world. How to maintain this infrastructure and prevent lasting damage to the environment is becoming an increasingly urgent and expensive issue.
A recent report in Canada found that to prevent an increase of sewage flows into the rivers around Winnipeg would have a cost of over $1 billion. This isn’t the ‘gold plated’ solution either in fact the costs are fairly rigid irrespective of the potential solution chosen. The problems are simply that of scale, for example in Winnipeg there are about 80 outflows, where pipes flow directly into a local river. Into these outflows sewage overflows are existent in about 22 combined locations.
The result is that there is a direct release of sewage into the rivers around Winnipeg nearly 1800 times every single year. There are no accurate figures of how much sewage that entails but estimates suggest its’s approaching 1000 million litres every single year.
So why is sewage being pumped into the river? Well the main reason is simply the age of the city’s sewer system. Like most older systems the sewage and overflow from storm water share the same pipes, but these systems can’t cope with high rainflow without the facility to overflow into the rivers.
Like many cities, Winnipeg has attempted to stop untreated sewage flowing into the rivers by installing weir dams which divert mixed water (sewage and rainfall) towards sewage treatment plants where the water can be purified. This system is not perfect though and will often get overwhelmed in times of high rainfall. As a result millions of raw sewage have leaked into rivers around Winnipeg particularly the Red River, there is of course a further environmental impact on lakes downstream of the river too.
Solving these issues, is not trivial as it can be imagined updating 100 year old plus sewers is not a simple and inexpensive task. For anyone who wants to see what can be involved there were a series of programmes about the Victorian Sewage system in London on the BBC iPlayer. Although if you’re outside the UK, you’ll need something like this VPN, here’s one in this post about watching the BBC iPlayer in Ireland.
Although a total infrastructure upgrade is often the best choice in these situations, the cost can be prohibitive – approximately 4 billion dollars. There are other options and most of them focus on simply replacing the number of combined outflows thereby reducing the risk of sewage being flushed into the river systems of the Winnipeg before treatment has taken place
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