Fire hydrants tapped for fresh drinking water in Edmonton heat

When it’s 30°C and even hotter in Edmonton, water becomes essential, clearly.

But what if you can’t get drinking water? What if you don’t have a home? What if you don’t have a tap?

Heatwave 2021

In late June and into July, a heatwave hit the city. The City of Edmonton activated its extreme weather response. 

For seven straight days at Environment Canada’s Blatchford site, the recorded daytime high temperature was hotter than 30 degrees. 

A network of agencies, volunteers and City employees jumped into action. Libraries and recreation centres stocked up on water and opened their doors, so people could get out of the heat. Peace Officers handed out water bottles. Donations poured in. 

From June 25 to July 23, the City gave out more than 500 bottles of water.

The heat wave brought into focus a new perspective on fire hydrants.

Water bottle filling stations

That weather crisis also sped up some important work: water bottle filling stations. 

A municipal policy—Supporting Vulnerable People During Extreme Weather Conditions—requires the City to respond during extreme heat. The Affordable Housing and Homelessness team is always scouting for ways to strengthen that response. 

The team got in touch with the City of Vancouver where some fire hydrants were retrofitted to serve as drinking fountains, bottle fillers, misting stations and hand washing stations. The Edmonton planning team recommended taps here.

“It was a neat project and a good cause,” said Trevor Siemens, a City of Edmonton Fab Tech Controller. 

Siemens  worked on drawings and helped a co-worker make taps that attach to fire hydrants, turning them into water bottle filling stations. 

Take a look at their solution: 

The pilot project includes five hydrants in parts of the city where it can be difficult to get water.

City welders bolt a taps to the concrete at Michael Phair Park downtown on 104 Street. Each station wears City of Edmonton colours, so users know the taps are a safe City service.

In service until the fall

The City deactivated its extreme weather response on July 23.

 The five fire hydrants will stay active until October 31.  At that time, Affordable Housing and Homelessness will be preparing for -30°C and evaluating whether taps on fire hydrants might belong in more neighbourhoods—where getting fresh water isn’t something everyone takes for granted—next summer. 

The taps were made at the The City’s fabrication shop where crews look after City trucks, as well as anything that needs welding—handrails, steps, bridges and so on.

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows a City of Edmonton fire hydrant tap on 104 Street, north of Jasper Avenue on July 13, 2021.