Canada – Water Powers

It has been pointed out by experts that a check to the earlier and greater use of water power was given at the end of the eighteenth century by the invention of the steam engine which revolutionised industrial conditions at that time.

A greater revolution is taking place by the utilization of water power to produce cheap electrical energy transmissible long distances. To the Dominion of Canada, possessing as she does not only the greatest aggregate water power in the world, but also raw material necessary for the establishment of great industries, this is a factor of the utmost significance.

In his inaugural address to the Commission of Conservation, The Honourable Clifford Sifton, the Chairman, made the following striking observations concerning the water supply of the Dominion :—” The flowing waters of Canada are, at the moment, apart from the soil, our greatest and most valuable undeveloped natural resource. They are more valuable than all our minerals, because, properly conserved, they will never be exhausted ; on the contrary, they can be increased. In great areas of our country they are capable, when fully developed, of supplying our entire urban population with light, heat and power, operating our tramways and railways, and abolishing the present methods with their extravagance, waste and discomfort. The time when this dream will be realized need not be, and probably is not, far distant.”

At present nothing more than an approximate estimate can be given of the quantity of the water power existing in the country, but the need of obtaining reliable data of the kind has been recognised, and a Committee of the Commission of Conservation has undertaken the task. In the meantime it is useful to take the estimate of Mr. T. C. Keefer, C.M.G., the eminent engineer, that Canada’s share of the St. Lawrence basin water power, from Lake Superior to Montreal is ten million horse-power. Mr. Sifton, in his address before-mentioned, also submitted the following figures, based on the best information to hand, as being approximately correct for the whole country :—

It will thus be seen that the water powers of the country are numerous, and that they are distributed over a wide area so that the possibilities for their development for the good of the community are enormous, and calculated to have far-reaching effects, not only in the direction of increasing the manufacturing capacity of the Dominion, but in providing for lighting, transportation, electrical power and other public needs.

Much has been done already to utilize the principal water powers in Eastern Canada. The Shawinigan Falls on the River St. Maurice are furnishing power to a number of industrial establishments in the immediate vicinity and even supplying it to the city of Montreal some eighty-five miles distant. This is but one of the many localities along the St. Lawrence below Quebec where power can be developed. The Falls of Montmorency, near Quebec, are utilized to provide power for lighting and for the tramways.

In New Brunswick the River St. John is being exploited for power purposes. The greatest development of all so far accomplished, however, is that of harnessing Niagara. In the peninsula there are four Canadian power companies, viz. :—the Canadian Niagara Company, the Ontario Power Company, the Hamilton Cataract Company and the Electrical Development Company, and as the power to be obtained has been estimated at seven million horse-power, the importance of the undertakings to the province of Ontario is manifest. The Hydro Electric Power Commission, appointed by the Ontario Government, has constructed transmission lines and distributes power purchased from the companies to various parts of the province.

A transformer station takes delivery at Niagara Falls of power at 12,000 volts. A sixty thousand H.P. double transmission line conveys the current to a controlling station at Dundas. From that point the line is continued to Toronto. From Dundas also a double line of the same character is continued via Woodstock and London to St. Thomas with local transformer stations at these points. A similar line goes north and west via Guelph, Preston, Berlin, Stratford, St. Marys and on to London. With local transformer stations at the various places named, the voltage is reduced in order to supply by means of additional local lines the various municipalities adjacent.

Arrangements have already been made to supply the following municipalities with their power needs by a current of approximately 27,000 H.P. viz. :—Toronto, 10,000 ; London, 5,000 ;. Guelph, 2,500 ; St. Thomas, 1,500 ; Woodstock, 1,200 ; Galt, 1,200 ; Hamilton, 1,000 ; Stratford, 1,000 ; Berlin, 1,000 ; Waterloo, 685 ; Preston, 600 ; St. Marys, 500 ; Ingersoll, 500 ; Hespeler, 800 ; New Hamburg, 250.

Provision is also being made for the supply of larger quantities as they are required, and for the extension of the services to all the municipalities within the area which is to be fed from Niagara Falls. The following is the basis on which the municipalities have agreed to pay the Commission for their supplies :—(1) The contract price of the Ontario Power Company at Niagara Falls, plus (2) 4 % per annum upon that part of the construction cost which is properly applicable to each participating municipality, plus (3) an annual amount sufficient to create a sinking fund which in thirty years, shall completely pay for that portion of the construction cost which is applicable to each municipality, plus (4) that portion of the line loss and the general operating and maintenance charges which is properly applicable to each municipality.

The inclusive rates, so computed, payable by each municipality, have been carefully estimated and reduced to the following H.P. scale viz. :

Toronto $18.10 per H.P. per annum. London 23.50 Guelph 24.00 St. Thomas 26.50 Woodstock 23.00 Galt 22.00 Stratford 24.50 Berlin 24.00 Hamilton 17.50 Waterloo 24.50 Preston 23.50 St. Marys 29.50 Hespeler 26.00 New Hamburg 29.50

With the extensions contemplated, the system of distribution will cover the whole south western portion of Ontario and the Commission holds that under its policy the benefits derived from the production of power at the Falls are being distributed throughout the province to large and small users alike, ” thus contributing to a well balanced and general development rather than an abnormal expansion of one district at the expense of others.”

Another point at which valuable water power is utilized is Sault Ste Marie at the junction of Lakes Superior and Huron. Pulp and steel mills and other industries are here carried on by its use.

Power is obtained by the towns of Port Arthur and Fort William, at the head of Lake Superior, from the Kakabeka Falls on the Kaministiquia River, which are some nineteen miles distant.

Other great water powers available in Ontario are those of the Nipigon River and the Spanish River, while the region through which the Georgian Bay Canal would be constructed, as well as the Ottawa River basin comprising some 56,000 square miles in area, offer innumerable opportunities for obtaining water power.

Further west, water powers are obtained for the city of Winnipeg from the rivers in the vicinity, and in British Columbia there is a large plant at Bonnington Falls on the Kootenay River, to mention one only of the many such water powers available in the province.

The above, which must not by any means be taken for a complete survey of the water power possibilities of Canada, is sufficient to show that the people of the country are fully alive to the importance of these valuable resources, and that there is scope for an enormous development in the future.