No timeline for repair as crews work to fix ‘catastrophic’ water main break in NW Calgary

A major water main break in northwest Calgary leading to thousands of people being under a boil water advisory and restrictions across the rest of the city. Henna Saeed reports on when the repairs will be done.

Crews are working around the clock in an attempt to repair a major water main break that has led to city-wide restrictions, and officials say it may take days before things return to normal.

The break was confirmed by the city after flooding was reported along 16 Avenue NW near Home Road around 7 p.m. The issue has since prompted the city to activate its municipal emergency plan and issue a boil water advisory for the surrounding area, water restrictions for all Calgarians as the city’s water supply becomes critically low.

In a Thursday afternoon news conference, city officials confirmed they have narrowed down the location of the break but say it could take a few days before a repair is made.

“If we are being very, very optimistic and they can remove the water from the site and actually get in there and have a look at what’s going on, it’s possible that within the next day to two days they can identify the problem,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek from the city’s Emergency Operations Centre.

“And then it would take as long as it takes to do the repair. Right now we can’t even tell you what the repair is.”

She says the line that broke is the Bearspaw south water feedermain — a two metre diameter pipe that takes water directly from a treatment facility to the reservoir.

It is a key artery that delivers water for the city and surrounding areas, including Airdrie, Chestermere and Strathmore. Officials say it was a key water supply pipe that was installed in 1975.

16 Avenue flooding
A watermain break causing flooding along 16 Avenue in NW Calgary on June 5, 2024. Jehn Benoit/CityNews

The accumulating water late Wednesday caused road closures in the Bowness/Montgomery neighbourhoods and completely flooded the athletic fields at Shouldice Park.

On Thursday, crews were at the scene with heavy machinery dealing with the leftover water accumulation and working on repairs.

“What we’re seeing on the site suggests it is catastrophic, but we’re working on a repair plan regardless as we move forward,” said Nancy McKay, the director of City of Calgary Water Services.

The city has implemented Stage 4 outdoor water restrictions Calgary-wide, while informing residents of Bowness they would need to boil their water before consuming. Anyone caught breaking the restrictions could be faced with a fine starting at $3,000.

The city said early Thursday that 500 homes and 100 businesses had been affected by the break so far.

A caller to the CityNews 660 newsroom who lives in the Point McKay area said the water pressure in their home was down to a trickle late Wednesday. Several others in the Bowness and Montgomery neighbourhoods have taken to social media since to say they have no water.

There are currently nine water wagons in Bowness for residents to access potable water. They are at the following locations:

  • 4527 77 St NW (Bowness Community Association)
  • 5927 Bowness Rd NW (Bow Crest Nursing Home)
  • 7311 34 Ave NW (Our Lady of Assumption School)
  • 4631 85 St NW (On 85 ST beside Belvedere Parkway School)
  • 7915 43 Ave NW (Bow Centre Seniors Home)
  • 2003 46 St NW (James Shouldice Manor – access between school & manor on 47 St)
  • 82 Juniper Dr NW
  • 4628 Montgomery Blvd NW (Bow View Manor Nursing Home)
  • 6540 Bowness Rd NW (on 65 St NW beside Bowness Car Wash)

At approximately 6:45 a.m., an Alberta Emergency Alert was issued, increasing restrictions for residents of the city — once told to “limit” water use, Calgarians are now being told not to shower, bath, wash dishes, or run appliances that use water as supply levels have reached a “critical state.”

The break is affecting the city’s ability to provide water to communities and make sure enough water is available to put out fires if need be.

Traffic impacts

On Wednesday night, Calgary police began advising drivers to avoid 16 Avenue NW between Sarcee Trail NW and Home Road NW due to the break, saying 16 Avenue is closed in both directions and is expected to be shut down for several hours.

Traffic cameras in the area showed water filling all lanes of 16 Avenue NW just west of the intersection with Home Road.

watermain break
A vehicle partially underwater as fire crews deal with a watermain break in NW Calgary on June 5, 2024. Jehn Benoit/CityNews

The city advised Thursday morning traffic in the area would be impacted, asking drivers to avoid the area around 16 Avenue and Home Road NW, and plan extra time for their commute.

“The section of 16 Avenue remains closed, and I know that that will make travel difficult for this morning’s commute. Please avoid the impacted area around 16 Avenue and Home Road NW, plan some extra time around your commute as there will be traffic impacts in the area,” said CEMA Chief Sue Henry.

Listen to CityNews 660 for the latest traffic updates.

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