Calgarians come together to reduce water use; issue could be resolved in 5-7 days

The City of Calgary says repairs to the broken water main that caused a critical water shortage will take at least a week ‘if things go well.’ Jillian Code has the latest.

Calgarians have come together to reduce their water use by 25 per cent, and officials say if everything goes well, the issue could be resolved in 5-7 days.

Water services director Nancy Mackay said in an update Saturday that there are about 484 million litres of water, and that the supply and demand are matching, keeping up with a target of 480 million litres.

She expressed gratitude to residents but said, “We need to keep this work up,” as there is still a “high risk” for water to run out should people disregard warnings.

Mackay says the workers at the water treatment plant were able to make progress overnight with the decline in water use, as they pump water to reservoirs that hold clean drinking water.

With crews working 24/7, she says the feeder main is being prepared for inspection and will cut out a damaged section and “get it prepped for new piping.”

“We’re making good progress. However, it’s important to know it’s complex. And we just want Calgarians to be prepared and understand that it still will take some time to get this back in service,” she said.

There are still many unknowns, and we want to ensure that … if everything goes really well, we’re looking at at least another five to seven days before the situation is resolved. So we need your help, as was said to continue to reduce water use at this time.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek is asking residents to share the message with family, friends, and those who aren’t taking it seriously.

“I can’t stress enough, we will run out of water if we don’t take action individually. Right now, this is not a joke, it is not some conspiracy, it is a fact,” she told reporters.

“So please reduce the amount of time that you are using in the shower, please think about whether you need to do that load of laundry.”

She is also asking people not to go to the site of the break as it prevents repairs, but is asking to visit and support Bowness businesses.

“They could really use your support right now,” she said. “But please don’t go to the site, the crews need time, they need space so that they can get the repairs done quickly and safely.”

Watch: Calgary at risk of running out of water

Calgary’s Emergency Management Agency Chief Susan Henry says 300 calls on water misuse were made to 311. Thirty-four of those calls were related to the fire ban also in place, with 23 not resolved as of Saturday.

She says this weekend, fines could be issued as 61 warnings were given to those misusing water. Anyone caught breaking the rules could be faced with a fine starting at $3,000. Fines for violating a fire ban range from $500 to $5,000.

“Our bylaw officers always take an education-first approach, if they are unable to receive compliance through education, we move through a process where we do a warning. If that warning continues to be unsuccessful, and we continue to go back to the same individuals time and time again, we will move to enforcement action which means the the issuing of tickets, we have not done that,” Henry said.

“Most Calgarians are cooperating with us and they are changing their behaviour as a result. But if we do have to do that move, we will do that move.”

She also says 1,800 calls directly related to this event have been made to 311, which averages about 30 to 40 calls per hour.

“So please continue to be patient. If you do have to wait in a queue and 311. Most of these calls are related to citizens that are looking for information.”

A boil water advisory for Bowness remains in place, along with a Stage 4 outdoor water restriction for all Calgarians. Residents are also asked to limit their water use to help preserve the remaining water, which Mackay said Friday “will run out in the days to come.”

When asked about the time frame of the boil advisory for those in Bowness, Mackay says the water usage and the boil advisory are two different timelines.

“When we have a water main break, there is very strict protocols and procedures that we take to flush a line — which actually requires water,” she said.

Collecting microbiology samples is required to double-check the drinking water quality before the boil advisory is lifted.

“It’s a step-by-step complicated process. Again, the priority is public health and supply for all of us and having enough for essential services,” Mackay explained.

Chris Huston, the manager of Drinking Water Distribution for the city, says the feeder main break was unusual and wasn’t expected to happen.

Huston says there are around 300 main breaks a year, but it doesn’t typically happen with a feeder main.

“We don’t have a crystal ball to see what’s going to happen. But this one caught us off guard, we weren’t expecting something like this to happen,” he told reporters.

“Pipes can last up to 100 years, we have pipes in our system that are from 1910 that are still in good shape. So we would have expected this pipe to last a lot longer. So we wouldn’t be expecting this to happen when it happened.”

The pipe was installed in the 1970s.

A feeder main pipe in the Bowness area that broke on Wednesday, June 6, 2024, and has led to water restrictions, boil advisories, and fire bans in Calgary.
A feedermain pipe in the Bowness area that broke on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, has led to water restrictions, boil advisories, and fire bans in Calgary. (Courtesy City of Calgary)

Gondek says the city has contacted over 700 businesses asking them to reduce their water use, with many voluntarily reducing their water consumption and saving 284,000 litres of water.

“A lot of them are telling clients that if it’s a water-intensive service that they require, they won’t be doing it at this time. And they’re just being very thoughtful about what it is that they’re doing and how they can be conserving water.”

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said on X that the province is in regular communication with the mayor and the city and “will support the city as needed.”

Calgary-wide restrictions for residents and businesses include the following:

  • Watering lawns, gardens, trees and shrubs by any method
  • Filling outdoor pools or hot tubs
  • Washing outdoor surfaces, including:
    • Windows
    • Exterior building surfaces
    • Sidewalks, driveways or walkways
  • Filling fountains or decorative water features
  • Washing your car in the driveway or street
  • Using water for construction purposes such as grading, compaction or dust control

CityNews660 will have the latest on this story as it develops. Listen live here.

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