“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared May 2, 1999.
Glenmore Water Treatment Plant/Dam
• 5300 19th St. S.W.
• Built: 1930-1933
• Project Manager: Gore, Naismith and Storrie of Toronto
• Contractors: Bennett and White of Calgary -- substructure and pumping station. J. McDiarmid Company -- superstructure (water purification plant). Mannix Construction Company of Calgary -- earth embankment contracts. Many other Calgary companies were awarded sub- contracts.
• Design Details: The project consisted of four components: a dam across the Elbow River; pumping station; a water purification plant; and 270 miles of water mains to carry water to the city. The plans called for 42,000 cubic yards of earth excavation, 12,100 cubic yards of rock excavation, 280,000 bags of cement, 265 tons of steel reinforcement and 75,270 cubic yards of concrete. The dam was 60 feet high and at the bottom 70 feet thick. The dam flooded about 900 acres of land, creating the Glenmore Reservoir.
• Original cost: $4 million; $315,000 more than the original estimate.
• As the city grew, it became increasingly difficult to provide Calgarians with a constant, steady flow of clear, clean water. In April 1926 a newspaper report headed Water Black: Nothing to do but Hope, outlined one of the many problems. "Both the Bow and the Elbow Rivers have become very muddy as a result of the sudden thaw and the water with which cooks boil the potatoes and mothers bath the baby is several shades darker than rain water."
• In July 1929 the city hired the Toronto engineering and sanitation firm of Gore, Naismith and Storrie to study Calgary's inadequate and frequently contaminated water supply. In October, the company submitted a final report outlining 12 remedial options. The Glenmore Dam project, supported by city council and approved by plebiscite, was the cheapest. In November the electorate voted 4,279 to 1,679 in favour of spending $3,779,000 to pay for the purchase of land, construction of the dam, pumping station, treatment plant, new mains and a water tower on the North Hill. The money, borrowed from the Bank of Montreal, was to be paid back over 40 years. A separate debenture financed the cost overruns.
• Most of the land was purchased from Archdeacon A.J.B. Dewdney and the Sarcee Indians. During the construction, the city also bought land from the Rotary Club, the McKid family and Patrick Burns. Ultimately, 2,373 acres were purchased at a cost of $347,928.82.
• Costs soared and allegations were made that the city bought more land than necessary. The land value was also questioned. In 1932 a judicial inquiry was held to investigate all aspects of the project's financing including land acquisitions, awarding of contracts, labour practices and management. Justice Ewing found no evidence of wrongdoing.
• City solicitor Leonard Brockington negotiated the per acre price, which ranged from $50 to $150. During negotiations with the Sarcee, the tribe asked for $100 an acre. Solicitor Brockington, who was an honorary chief of the tribe, reportedly said: "The citizens would hang this committee to the nearest lamp post if we paid that much for it."
Chief One Spot replied: "Well, maybe that wouldn't be much of a loss."
• In February 1930 surveying began at the site which was tentatively called the Chinook Reservoir. A committee appointed by Mayor Charles Carr, to name the project, selected Glenmore, a Gaelic word meaning big valley. Other suggestions included: Sam Livingston Dam (the property's original homesteader) and George Alexander Dam (owner of the city's first waterworks).
• The largest public works project ever undertaken by the city began on July 26, 1930 with an official sod-turning ceremony. Mayor Andy Davison turned the first sod and was given a "silver miniature of the spade."
• A concrete mixing plant was built on the north side of the site and the first concrete was poured Oct. 13, 1930.
• The project provided much-needed work for unemployed men during the Great Depression.
• In the fall of 1931 McDiarmid began construction of the water purification plant. Medicine Hat brick, Manitoba Tyndal stone trim and French marble were used in the construction of the Art Deco style building.
• Although no official ceremonies were held, "one of the most modern waterworks systems on the continent" was fully operational by Jan. 19, 1933. Water rates immediately increased by 25 per cent. Seven thousand attended the public open house held the following Sunday afternoon.
• In the 1940s, the area was called a "swimming, fishing and picnicking paradise." In later years public health officials closed the reservoir to swimmers, windsurfers and power boaters to reduce the potential for contamination of the city's water supply.
• Engineers originally estimated that the new Glenmore waterworks system was capable of servicing a population of 200,000, but by 1949 the system was reportedly "under near-constant strain" keeping up with the demands of 105,000 Calgarians.
• In 1957 a $1.5-million extension to the filtration plant doubled capacity.
• In 1965 plant capacity was increased with addition of eight filter beds and implementation of a high lift pumping station. A services building containing administrative offices and research laboratory were built in 1979.
• Glenmore met Calgary's water need until 1972, when the Bearspaw Treatment plant was built on the Bow River. Glenmore provides approximately two-thirds of the city's water supply.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared September 28, 2004.
• The original water supply, a gravity feed system, pumped water from the Elbow River into a reservoir near Richmond Green. Difficulties included contaminated water and gravity feed lines being on a flood plain. City council eventually adopted a proposal to build a reservoir outside city limits in 1929 with land purchased from Archdeacon Dewdney and the Tsuu T'ina Nation.
Dam construction started in 1930 using men left unemployed by the Great Depression. The Glenmore Reservoir, named after original owner Sam Livingston's farm, flooded 360 hectares. The dam, 320-metres long and 21-metres thick, was fully operational by January 1933 and declared one of the strongest in the world for its height, 18 metres.
• Expansions were done in 1957 and 1965. Glenmore met Calgary's water needs until 1972, when the Bearspaw treatment plant was built on the Bow River to supply water to the north part of the city. Glenmore now supplies water to the south, with an interconnected water supply from both plants.
A roadway over the dam, originally planned as part of a drive around the reservoir and once an extension of 14th Street S.W., is now closed to cars. In 1992, Glenmore was designated an American Water Works Association landmark structure. The attractive Art Deco buildings are considered a municipal historic resource.