Swift Current Creek
Watershed Stewards

Water and Sewer Timeline

For the settlers, supplying water and disposing of waste was simple compared to the maze of pipes and infrastructure that we have today. Drinking water was often hauled from the nearest creek or body of water, although a few houses and farms had wells. In larger settlements, the hamlet or village would supply a well. Most houses had cisterns and rain barrels to collect rainwater for washing and other needs, and drinking water was available by dipping a ladle into a common water crock. Toilet pails, outhouses, cesspools and the honeywagon were used for waste disposal. Most towns and cities did not start introducing piped water and sewage until they needed a reliable supply of water for fire fighting. The time line below describes the history and some major changes in supplying our water and disposing of our waste since our watershed was settled.


1882- The CPR dam was built at Swift Current to ensure a reliable water supply for the steam engines
1901 - A public well was bored in Swift Current
1905 - A water pumping station was built in conjunction with the powerhouse reservoir for Swift Current
1909 - The provincial Health Officer believed there was “an unlimited supply of good water” in Swift Current from springs and the creek (Swift Current Sun, September 17, 1909). In rural areas, people were digging deep water wells to replace the hand dug shallow wells that tended to go dry very quickly
1910 - Swift Current citizens voted on the bylaw to construct a waterworks and sewerage system; the vote results were: Waterworks (95 FOR and 4 AGAINST) and Sewer (97 FOR and 2 AGAINST). The CPR superintendent and the mayor negotiated for the town to use the water from the CPR dam, rather than build their own dam, until the population reached 5000.

Did You Know Water Fact
Poor sanitation of Swift Current's water supply cause typhoid fever and diptheria outbreaks in the 1880's; some cases ended fatally. In 1888 there were 15 cases at one time of typhoid fever. 

CPR Dam Years Ago

CPR Dam Today

1911 - The first water and sewer mains were installed in downtown Swift Current. The sewer mains were made of brick and wood and drained into Swift Current Creek. Swift Current passed a bylaw regulating sewage disposal within town
1912 - Herbert became a town. Several ‘modern’ homes were built that included running water and a sewage system. A cistern in the basement was filled with water, and then the water was hand pumped to storage tanks in the attic
1913 - Swift Current built a dam that created a water reservoir and flooded a popular park area of Fenton’s Grove. The cost estimate for the waterworks and sewerage was $483,330, which was several times greater than the original estimates
1914 - Shaunavon became a town. The CPR drilled a well to supply water for the steam engines. Swift Current became a city and built their first sewage disposal plant although most sewage was still drained into Swift Current Creek
1921 - Swift Current expanded the water and sewer main lines and the city’s Public Welfare Committee inspected the sewage works and wrote that if the problems were not corrected, they would lead to“the health of the community [to be] menaced by contamination of the river water below the disposal works.” (Public Welfare Committee Minutes, August 16, 1921)
1925 - Shaunavon citizens voted on a bylaw for a sewer system and sewage disposal plant; the results were 137 FOR and 63 AGAINST. The cost estimate for the system was $38,602, but it was completed for $33,790. The sewage system was built as an activated sludge system; the first of its kind in the province and the engineers claimed it to be “the best that science has yet to evolve.” (Shaunavon Standard, March 5, 1925). When inspected by Public Health, the inspector stated he had “never inspected a more perfect piece of work on installation, [with] not one single fault found”. (Shaunavon Standard, January 14, 1926)
1934 - Swift Current passed a bylaw that prohibited recreational use on the reservoir due to water quality problem
1935 - A Deputy from Public Health stated: "I wish to point out that the City of Swift Current is the only City in the province which supplies unfiltered water from a surface source to its residents." Water samples frequently showed high counts of coliform bacteria indicating contamination of the water supply. The Deputy urged Council to act to "protect the health of the citizens by the installation within a few months of a filtration plant in connection with the water supply."(City Council Minutes, May 17, 1935)
1936 - The water filtration plant was approved and built
1941 - Swift Current completed a water reservoir at South Hill (planning had started in 1935)
1943 - Duncairn Dam was completed at a cost of $135,000. Duncairn Dam created Reid Lake, which was meant to be the long term, guaranteed water supply for the City of Swift Current

Fenton's Grove (circa 1913)

Duncairn Dam

1945 - Residences within Swift Current could now have indoor private toilets
1946 - A population explosion (40- 50% increase) in Swift Current resulted in treated water shortage and watering restrictions, as the water filtration plant could not keep up with the demand. The city added some indoor public restrooms, expanded their water and sewer mains, and constructed a new sewage disposal plant with a sludge removal tank (cost = $93,500)
1957 - Power reaches rural areas and some farms began to hook up to the grid and Swift Current built the North Hill Reservoir
1958 - Herbert built a municipal sewer and water system. Ratepayers voted 143 FOR and 73 AGAINST sewage lagoons at a cost of $124,840. Swift Current built two sewage lagoons and sewage discharges into the creek were only made in spring and fall when needed, rather than a continuous sewage discharge into the creek year-round
1959 - Herbert completed construction on their water storage reservoir and Swift Current built their main sewage lift station to the lagoons
government began a new program to assist farmers with the design and plumbing for sewer and water systems. Some farms built sewage lagoons and some built pump-out septic tanks. Shaunavon built a water tower for fire protection, which also supplied domestic and commercial running water in town. 
1970's - Swift Current upgraded their water and sewer systems
1970 - Herbert was awarded the Sanitary Environment award despite “the 40 outhouses and the faulty sewage lagoon wall.” (Bittersweet Years: The Herbert Story). The provincial Department of Environment warned the City of Swift Current that they would have to develop an alternative to dumping sewage into the creek
1976 - Swift Current built another sewage lagoon (Lagoon C)
1978 - The effluent irrigation project began after 5 years of planning. The project disposed of a great deal of sewage and reduced discharges into the creek
1985 - Herbert imposed strict water restrictions on its residents due to low water supply
1987 - An inspection of the Swift Current’s sewage main lines indicated that the lines laid in the mid 50's would have to be replaced
1989 - Shaunavon built a main sewage lift station to their lagoons and the Ducks Unlimited wetland was constructed
1991 - Swift Current made a sewage effluent discharge into Swift Current Creek that received much local attention. The city began considering additional methods for wastewater disposal including a treatment plant
1993 - Swift Current made a effluent discharge into Swift Current Creek and downstream users were upset about the release
1994 - Swift Current built another sewage lagoon (Lagoon D) and upgraded the water treatment plant. A Saskatchewan Environment report on the 1993 sewage effluent discharge stated that all of the samples ‘checked out’. Downstream users were not as confident

Swift Current Weir

Ducks Unlimited Pond at Shaunavon

1995 - Swift Current has researched the following options for sewage disposal: purchasing additional irrigation lands, enlarging and upgrading the irrigation pump house, twinning the supply line and installing new supply lines for irrigation, creating rapid infiltration, evaporation ponds, or marshland/wetland treatment, expanding the lagoons, and a wastewater treatment plant
1996 - Swift Current purchased additional effluent irrigation land and pivots
1997 - Swift Current built the snowfluent plant. Due to energy prices and the local climate, the snowfluent plant has not functioned at its expected capacity
1999 - Swift Current was fined for an accidental effluent spill into the creek
2001 - Swift Current enhanced drainage around the existing sewage lagoons and installed ‘actuated valves’ that automatically closes when dugout levels are too high, preventing unauthorized sewage discharges

Snow Fluent Plant

Various photos from the Swift Current Museum and the City of Swift Current


Executive Director : Kevin Steinley
Email: kevin.sccws@gmail.com



Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards
Box 1088
Swift Current, SK
S9H 3X3
Phone: (306)-741-2240

We are located in the LB Thompson Building; Gate #2 on Airport Road at the Research Station

Contact Us

The web page was designed with Mobirise