Sink or swim? City to explore how to make Hawrelak Park lake more swimmer friendly

After revisiting a discussion of water upgrades at a commitee meeting, city staff will have a year to study options to expand the use of the lake in Hawrelak Park.

The ITU World Triathlon is the only event that uses the park for swimming

Athletes jump into the water during the Elite Men's race at the ITU World Triathlon Series in Edmonton on Saturday, July 20, 2019. The lake in Hawrelak Park is used by triathletes in the swim portion of the annual race, but the city of Edmonton is looking to get more use out of the lake. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

City administration has been asked to wade through the waters of possibility to see how it can make the lake in Hawrelak Park more swimmer friendly. 

While not a new idea, it is the right time. 

Council is talking about it now as a 10-year Hawrelak Park rehabilitation project is expected to start in 2023.

Councillors discussed upgrades to the water quality of the lake at a community and public services committee meeting Wednesday and wondered if there might be cheaper options with current technology.

"If it's something that's low impact, say some plants that can filter out some of the water or other remediation efforts, now is the time to include those rather than going back many years later and retrofitting the lake at that time," Coun. Sarah Hamilton said.

Hamilton pointed to the fact that currently only the ITU World Triathlon uses the lake every year for the swimming portion of races and it costs close to $70,000 for the pond to meet health regulations.

"If you sort of average that out over 30 years maybe it makes sense to remediate it permanently," Hamilton said.

City crews added chlorine to the water in 2015, just a week before athletes hit the water.

In 2011, the city's mayor at the time laughed at a $60-million estimate to add a beach and make the water clean enough for people to swim in.

Hamilton was quick to point out, however, that a swimming pool might not be the way to go.

"I think we have lots of outdoor public swimming pools. And frankly if it's too cold to swim at Queen E. or Oliver, it's probably gonna be too cold to swim in the Hawrelak lake, she said.  

"So I don't necessarily think that swimming is the solution."

The city will have a year to work on a study for expanded use of the lake that will be presented in early 2021.


  • An earlier version of this story stated city administration was looking at ways to turn the lake at Hawrelak Park into a swimming pool. The committee, however, will look at ways to improve the water quality in the lake sufficiently for regular swimming to be possible.
    Jan 30, 2020 10:22 AM MT