So to say that Edmonton is not a tourist hot spot is not unreasonable, but by the same token many of us view Edmonton as home and would not live anywhere else by choice. Over the years attempts have been made to make our city more interesting (some successful, some still in the works, and some just plain laughable). One of these attempts made back in 1980 was the creation of a "waterfall" on one of the bridges that cross the river. Although the term "waterfall" may be a bit of a stretch in describing a long pipe fitted with sprinkler heads,(hey its Edmonton remember). Now before you decide this falls into the "laughable" category consider this, Edmonton is not blessed with a lot of natural wonder and this particular man made one draws thousands of spectators every-time it is fired up, which is typically 3-4 times a year. Here's a video of Great Divide Waterfall in all of its glory (sorry for the short commercial at the front)
Apparently this "iconic" piece of Edmonton may have seen its last days. Why? Well in large part simply due to government regulation, or more to the point conflicting regulation between different levels of government.
Back in 2009 , after the waterfall had been operating for over 30 years with no issues the City of Edmonton received a directive from Environment Canada ordering the shut down of the waterfall for potential chlorine contamination to fish in the waters of the North Saskatchewan river.
Chlorine Contamination? Well apparently in it's wisdom the city designed the waterfall to use water that has been treated for drinking. The waterfall when in operation uses 5 million litres of treated drinking water (equivalent to the daily consumption of water for a town of 5000) for every two hours the tap is turned on, or in even simpler terms about $1000 of taxpayer money per hour! Just so we're all clear on this, this is the same civic government that encourages it citizens to practice water conservation, install low flow toilets ( that usually require two flushes, not one, to clear the bowl) and suggests that you water your lawn minimally in summer months.
So, while I admit I am not a waterfall engineer (is there such a thing?) the first and simplest solution that came to mind is to just use river water, after all the waterfall sits about 60 or so meters above the North Saskatchewan river that certainly has an abundant supply. So why not use a simple trick to "water the lawn" that any waterfront cabin owner knows, run a a hose down to the water, pump the water up, and problem solved. Right?
Wrong! Unfortunately, with government (at any level) it is never that simple, a city report prepared on the issue states that simply filtering and pumping untreated river water through the waterfall is "not acceptable" under public health standards (trust me, I am not making this up). Now bear in mind that this is the same river that Edmonton derives all of its drinking water from and that they ultimately dump all of the cities "treated" waste water back into, in addition all of the storm drains dump untreated water straight into the river laden with road waste (oil, antifreeze, lawn chemicals, salt, etc.) yet for some reason it isn't clean enough to run through a glorified lawn sprinkler system...go figure.
Now to make matters worse this same city report suggests three options to stop chlorine contamination, ranging in price from $125,000 to $700,000. The "cheap" solution would see a de-chlorination system installed, that's right folks, first the city will incur the cost of treating river water to make it fit for human consumption then they will process it a second time to undo the treatment so that they can then pour it back into the river where they originally took it from (ouch, my head hurts). But it just keeps getting better (why is that not a surprise) the de-chlorination option would reduce water flow by 15% leaving the mighty Great Divide Waterfall flowing at a "trickle (much like a low flow toilet I imagine) and this would in turn require special nozzles (sprinkler heads) to be installed to maintain water flow integrity. Cost? between $325,000 and $700,000. Unfortunately, it just doesn't end... in addition to the hard costs for a de-chorination system the annual labour costs to run the system would jump from $30,000 to $40,000 as additional crews would have to be used to monitor the water flow at the top and the bottom of the waterfall each time it was turned on ( I wonder how they handle this problem at Niagara Falls?). This in a city laden with potholes on it's roadways that are literally capable of swallowing a small vehicle.
So I have a simple solution to the Great Divide Waterfall Crisis of 2012 (I bet you knew this was coming). Every year in December the local Cable companies across the country have a specific channel they reserve to run a video 24/7 of logs burning in a fireplace for the benefit of individuals who do not have a real fireplace. So, maybe the solution to Edmonton's waterfall problem is just as simple, we already have a video (see above) of the waterfall....... Just think about it, rather than being limited to only enjoying the actual waterfall 4-5 times a years, Edmontonians ( and potentially tourists worldwide) could tune in 24/7 to the majestic glory of the Great Divide Waterfall, even in the heart of winter when the river itself was frozen like a brick. Will wonders never cease? In the process the city would same literally hundreds of thousands of dollars,
Mind you by the time the civic government gets involved in the production of such a video the costs may be on the scale of a Cecil B Demille epic, or maybe they could just license the clip of Moses parting the Red Sea.
For nostalgic purposes here is the yuletide log video, ahhh I fell warm already. Where's the Eggnog?