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2002 Energy

Town of Sylvan Lake, Alberta

Sylvan Lake Aquatic Facility

Population: 7,008

The Town of Sylvan Lake-one of the fastest growing communities in Canada-built a swimming pool facility that uses geothermal heat rather than conventional fuel sources for heating. Underground piping collects and stores heat from the earth that is then used to heat the entire facility, eliminating the need to use natural gas. The town has estimated that as much as $60,000 to $70,000 per year will be saved in operating costs, with additional benefits for the environment. To meet future needs, the facility was also designed to expand as the community grows.


One of the main reasons for which the Town of Sylvan Lake, Alberta, decided it needed to build an aquatic facility was its growing population. Sean Barnes, director of recreation and parks, believes that the town's thriving economy, pristine lake and proximity to large urban centres, such as Calgary and Red Deer, are the reasons why more people are moving to Sylvan Lake. With 5,000 residents in 1996, the town's population had grown to almost 7,500 by 2001, making it the second-fastest growing community in Canada.

Although the town does not have a specific sustainable development policy, council encourages projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "If it wasn't for our recreation board and council, we couldn't have done it," said Mr. Barnes. He recognized Council Member Janet Wilson Down as an especially energetic project champion.

The town's primary objective was to build the facility at minimal cost to taxpayers. "You want to cut costs in an aquatic centre because the biggest expense is the gas bill to heat all the water," he explained. The hunt began for an efficient, cost-effective solution.


  • The geothermal heating system has eliminated the need for a natural gas line. The town estimates this will save as much as $70,000 per year in operating costs, with a three-year payback on investment.
  • The money raised by the cabin lottery was enough to cover the costs of the ozone filtration system as well as pool toys. It also covered the cost of constructing an entrance in the shape of a lighthouse.
  • Some people have adverse reactions to the smell and taste of chlorine when it is used for filtration, therefore the ozone filtration system is a better alternative.
  • The facility may require 12 new employees, positions that, ideally, will be filled locally. Recreation staff members are also encouraged to use the facility because the town council firmly believes that a healthy employee is a happy employee.

Lessons Learned

  • Open communication with the construction committee and council was important to ensure that everyone was informed at each stage of the design and construction. "It's hard working on such a big facility," said Mr. Barnes, "and sometimes you leave people out, so communication is a big necessity."
  • There is always a learning curve with new technology, so staff members took time to review all the options and learn as much as possible about the geothermal and ozone filtration systems before approving them.



  • Royal Lifesaving Society
  • Canadian Paraplegic Association
  • Sylvan Lake Minor Hockey
  • Sylvan Lake Futures Foundation
  • Chandos Construction
  • Histech Energy Solutions
Page Updated: 21/12/2015