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Edmonton Natural Attractions: Great Divide Waterfall

The Great Divide Waterfall was built in 1980 as an addition to Edmonton’s High Level Bridge. Designed by city artist Peter Lewis, the waterfall was constructed to mark the occasion of Alberta’s 75th Anniversary. The Great Divide Waterfall operates in celebration of holiday events.

The Great Divide Waterfall is 64 metres high (over 7 metres higher than Niagara Falls) and spans 91 metres along the expanse of the bridge. Water for the facility is supplied from a nearby 42 inch water main on the north side of the river. A special valve was designed to connect the water main to a 20 inch pipe leading to the top of the bridge. Extra pumps are used when the waterfall is running to supply the extra demand needed to maintain pressure throughout the water work system. Water pressure alone forces water to the top of the bridge where it enters a horizontal pipe filled with nozzles above the bridge at sidewalk level. The waterfall effect is created when approximately 50,000 litres of water per minute rushes out through the nozzles. For a two hour waterfall showing the water measures approximately 4,600 cubic metres.

The design for the waterfall was originally conceived by Lewis as an artistic concept to salute the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. The plan was initially turned down due to technical problems and the idea was shelved because there was not enough time to complete the project for the Games. Lewis modified his design and the project was approved by Edmonton City Council.

Construction of the Great Divide Waterfall took three months and cost approximately $500,000 to build with the city providing a $100,000 grant to complete the project. The Great Divide Waterfall was officially turned on by Mayor C. J. Purves on September 1, 1980.
Waterfall Update
The City of Edmonton is turning off the Great Divide Waterfall while it investigates options for operating the waterfall with dechlorinated water. 

The waterfall uses treated water, with chlorine, which is released into the North Saskatchewan River. While the waterfall is a low-volume source of chlorinated water, it has the potential to impact the natural habitat of the river.

The City has hired a consultant to identify dechlorinated water options for the waterfall. Results of the study will be available late in 2009 and will be used to develop a plan for future waterfall operations in 2010 and beyond. 

“The Great Divide Waterfall is a city attraction and an important tradition,” said Al Maurer, City Manager. “We want to find the right balance between tradition and our commitment to sustaining the environment. Doing this important work now will ensure we have an environmentally-friendly plan for future waterfall operations.”

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