A small Manitoba city has reached an environmental milestone, as officials in Selkirk announced it is now producing all of the community’s drinking water and treating all of its wastewater without the use of any fossil fuels.
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“Reducing our carbon footprint requires us to put one foot in front of the other often taking baby steps, but every once in a while, you get to take a pretty big leap,” city of Selkirk CAO Duane Nicol said.
On Monday, Selkirk, a community of about 10,000 residents located about 25 kilometres north of Winnipeg, announced recently completed upgrades to the city’s drinking water plant now have that building heated and cooled using a geothermal system, and producing zero Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.
The plant is now the second major utility in the community to run on zero fossil fuels, as the city also completed construction in 2021 on a brand new wastewater plant that treats all wastewater in the city, and also uses zero fossil fuels.
According to Nicol, before upgrading the water treatment plant and replacing the city’s previous wastewater treatment plant, those two buildings produced the most GHGs of any buildings in the city.
“From a GHG perspective, the water treatment plant was the second largest point source of emissions in the city, with the old wastewater treatment plant being the largest contributor,” Nicol said.
“Both water plants accounted for 30% of the city’s total corporate emissions prior to converting to geothermal.”
Selkirk has been taking steps in recent years to reduce their emissions, and the city says it’s now on track to outpace GHG emission targets the federal government hopes to see met by the year 2030.
The Government of Canada’s national greenhouse gas reduction targets call for a reduction of 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and Selkirk now says that by reducing and eliminating GHG emissions from those buildings alone, the city expects to exceed the national target by 2030.
Nicol said it is all part of a strategic plan the city has created and adopted that requires that environmental concerns and possible effects on the environment, both positive and negative, be considered in any and all decision-making at the municipal level.
Last November, Selkirk council passed the Greenhouse Gas Accountability Bylaw, which mandates the tracking and reporting of Selkirk’s corporate and community GHG emissions using internationally recognized standards and sets new emission reduction targets that are consistent with global efforts to keep the climate increase to 1.5 degrees or less.
Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson said he believes the decisions that Selkirk has been making in recent years are “bold,” and he said reducing emissions is something more and more Canadians want to see from elected officials at all levels.
“This is the most pressing issue of our time,” Johannson said. “Recent polling indicates that citizens expect governments at all levels to do more.”
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, human activity is the number one cause of climate change, and about two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions come from carbon dioxide (CO2) which is largely the product of burning fossil fuels.
Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.