Although Delco Water may have had its origins in the automation and electrical panel industry, the clients it gained over the years opened the taps to a new line of business. Now for 20 years, Delco has been designing, manufacturing, commissioning, and servicing water and wastewater treatment systems across North America.
Scott Marchinko, Vice President (VP) of Delco Water, said the company operates as a division of Delco Automation, which provides solutions to process control, water treatment and integrated security systems.
“The owners found an opportunity to build these electrical panels and provide the automation that goes along with it,” he said. “What ended up happening is that a lot of the panels they were building were for water treatments plants.”
Initially, most of the equipment was purchased from vendors in the United States and Delco engineers would set up the panels and various controls on this equipment. Over time, this group of engineers became quite efficient at understanding the needs of local water treatment systems and the company made a decision to create a new division and market the expertise.
Today, Delco Water offers a wide range of filtration options, from reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration systems to biological filtration products. Based out of Saskatoon, their facility boasts in-house research and development for custom engineering, ensuring that each customer receives products and services tailored to their individual needs. The company has upwards of 60 staff and they have completed projects all over the country. They are currently conducting work in Saskatchewan, Northern Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and British Columbia, and are completing their first America project at Kotzebue, Alaska.
“We design and manufacture the equipment, it then gets installed by a general contractor, we come back and commission everything, and then we train the operations staff on how to run their plant,” explained Marchinko. “Then we perform service and maintenance on a contractual basis, depending on the needs and the budget of the community. So, for a lot of the plants we put in, we’re involved for the life of the plant.”
Most of their work involves designing and developing water treatment plants for municipalities, although there is increasing demand for wastewater systems. Typically, consulting engineers are contracted by local municipalities to start the process to develop a new water treatment facility. Those engineers contract Delco, provide them with water quality samples, and the company provides recommendations on the type of treatment equipment that would be required for the municipality to meet Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines as well as any other provincial regulations that must be met.”
Delco is just another example of Saskatchewan’s innovative and highly skilled workforce. Marchinko said that the province has been a great place to grow the business, and their success has allowed them to provide services to areas that had previously been underserved. As they continue to perfect their trade, Delco has increased its focus on delivering solutions to First Nations communities.
Delco Water has brought clean drinking water to many Indigenous communities to date, including the Northern Village of Buffalo Narrows and the Montreal Lake Cree Nation. These initiatives are bridging a significant gap in the existing market.
“We're doing quite a few jobs, not only in Northern Saskatchewan but Manitoba and Northern Alberta, where the community is only accessible by ice roads or air,” Marchinko said. “There's definitely challenges trying to design a system to use minimal consumables that also has adequate redundancy. We know that if there is a mechanical failure, it could take a bit of time to get the parts or materials required.”
These factors must be considered alongside sustainability. Since there is growing demand to develop water treatment equipment that has a low carbon footprint, Delco is looking at ways to reduce power consumption while providing the same level of service. “If you have to separate or desalinate water, or take the minerals out and soften it, there is an energy penalty with that,” Marchinko said.
He added that First Nations communities have been leaders in acquiring green technologies, so those projects have been an opportunity for company growth as well. “We've been doing biological filtration on First Nations for probably 15 years and that has just started to be adopted in the last three or four years by other municipalities.”
Delco’s cooperation with Indigenous communities does not stop at the installation of infrastructure. Through a partnership with File Hills Qu’Appelle Valley Tribal Council, they are conducting a capacity building project that should be mutually beneficial to both the company and many First Nations youth.
“It’s a one-year internship project where they work in various departments within Delco Water and Delco Automation to give them a broad understanding of what we do in the water industry in general,” Marchinko said. The idea is to increase capacity for Indigenous youth to enter the industry, whether that involves looking after their own water treatment plant and facilities or those in other First Nations communities.
The project may also create an interest in these interns towards seeking post-secondary education in this industry. There are numerous career opportunities including welding, pipe fitting, electrical instrumentation, engineering, and even computer science.
The future of water treatment looks incredibly advanced, with digitization just on the horizon. Options like real-time monitoring and alarm annunciation make practices more predictive every day, which Marchinko said could open the door to things like machine learning and artificial intelligence. As the industry moves forward with leaps and bounds, Delco Water is riding the wave.