Following the announcement that roughly $1 million was going towards Grenfell's water system, some of the residents who attended the town meeting on May 19 were excited about what it might mean for Grenfell.
Alderman Randy Schatz had the difficult task of explaining that the pending changes will not create the drastic improvement in taste and quality that some were hoping for.
The improvements to the water system will simply provide a backup source of water, in case something goes wrong with Grenfell's well, and increase the efficiency of the town water plant.
In December of 2008, the Saskatchewan Environment's Drinking Water Standards tightened their water system requirements. Grenfell's backup source, the surface water plant, was no longer up to code, and it was revealed that the town would be under a permanent boil water advisory if they continued to use the plant without extensive upgrades.
"The engineers - they ballparked it - they said about $2.5 million just to get the surface water plant functioning to the point where it's going to be usable," Schatz said.
Because only 10% of the town's water supply came from the surface water plant, the decision was made to discontinue it altogether. The problem now is that Grenfell has been left with just a single source of water, a well located north of town.
"It's a dangerous situation because if we did have to drill a well in an emergency, (it would take) my guess is a month to six weeks."
Schatz insists that if the well collapsed, was contaminated or was rendered inoperable for any reason, Grenfell would be in serious trouble. Because it is unlikely to happen, even Schatz himself had his doubts at first as to the seriousness of the risk.
"I wasn't convinced at the start, I said, 'Really, how often does a well collapse.'
"It's really unlikely that it'll happen, but if it does we're in a bad, bad situation."
The plan is to build a new well within approximately 300 metres of the current one and to tie it into the existing pipeline.
The second part of the plan is to add a fourth Greensand Filter to the water plant. The filters are responsible for reducing the manganese and iron in the water to safe levels.
Finally, they also hope to automate the backwash cycle at the plant. Backwashing is currently a manual process and is sometimes required at all hours of the night, when workers would be inconvenienced or unable to perform the task.
If the process is automated, backwashing will occur as often as but no more often than required.
One of the topics of debate surrounding the water project has been the lack of a reverse osmosis (RO) system, which was addressed at the meeting. An RO system would noticeably improve the quality of the water, particularly the taste and hardness.
Grenfell Mayor Marc Saleski, however, insists that aside from those two factors, there is nothing wrong with Grenfell's water.
"I you don't like the taste that's your discretion but it's safe, drinkable water.
"Your options are to purchase bottled water if you don't like the taste, or to purchase your own filtration system in-house which is a very reasonable cost."
He says that in order for the town to be able to get an RO system, residents would be forced to pay for it, whereas the way it is now, each individual can choose how much they are willing to pay to have anything above and beyond safe water.
"Everyone would love (the RO system) and everyone would have to pay big time for it. We weren't prepared to make everyone pay big time for it."
One attendee went so far as to suggest that everyone using the well water should be given a free coffee-maker every three months.
Schatz tried to lay to rest questions about why surrounding towns have gotten RO systems when Grenfell has not. He used Whitewood, who has implemented the system, as an example.
"They have uranium in their water - they don't really have a choice. They aren't doing it because they decided they want grand water, they're doing it because they really don't have another treatment option.
Some residents were still having a hard time getting on board with a project that they won't have any noticeable effects, except in case of a water emergency. "That's the hard thing about a million bucks is we're not improving the water quality, we're just securing our system," Schatz said.
Then there's the issue of funding. The estimated cost for the project will be roughly $1 million, two-thirds of which will hopefully come from government grants including the Building Canada Fund.
If it goes through, the provincial and federal government will each contribute $381,000 to the project.
The town has also received a Municipal Economic Enhancement Program (MEEP) grant which will go towards the water project.
"So hopefully all we're really financing is $278,000 out of $1.1 million," Schatz said.
One funding option to cover the rest of the cost is to take $200,000 from the capital reserve fund which the town can borrow and pay back gradually. They are also considering a number of other options.
"Which way we're going to do it we'll decide later but first we have to get money from the government," Schatz said.