Calgary water restrictions to last several more weeks after crews discover further damage to feeder main

After more than a week of reminders to conserve and reduce water consumption, Phoenix Phillips reports that the lack of action from some Calgarians may be a symptom of warning fatigue.

Water restrictions in Calgary are expected to last several more weeks after crews discovered additional sections of pipe in need of repair on the broken feeder main that burst more than a week ago.

In an update Friday afternoon, city officials say restrictions will last three to five more weeks and continue to stress the need for residents to reduce their water usage over that time as they work to make repairs.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said robot scans on the damaged Bearspaw South feeder main that broke under 16 Avenue NW confirmed five additional locations that require attention and could lead to another break if they aren’t dealt with promptly.

Officials say it is important to make the repairs on the additional sections while the water is off and the pipe is exposed.

“We know the pipe is not safe to bring into service without these repairs,” said CEMA Chief Sue Henry. “We cannot take the chance of further pipe breaks.”

“Our only choice is to stay the course with our water restrictions for three to five weeks longer.”

The later timeline for repairs means the water emergency could extend through the Calgary Stampede. Henry said it’s too early to determine what the new developments will mean for restrictions on the 10-day event that kicks off on July 5th.

“The Calgary Stampede is one of our agency members and their teams are downstairs as we speak working on contingency plans,” she said. “They just received the same news today, so it’s too early to project what will occur.”

Henry says they hope to revise the timeline as the work on repairing the feeder main progresses.

“This is not the news we were hoping to share, but we are sharing the situation as transparently as possible with you,” she says. “We absolutely understand that speed is of the essence, we are balancing that with the availability of materials and safety of our teams.”

Infrastructure manager Francois Bouchart says the city is now in the process of draining an additional 300 metres of the pipe that has yet to be inspected. He says crews will continue to work around the clock in an effort to restore normal water service as soon as possible.

Work on repairing the pipeline restarted Thursday afternoon following the injury of two workers the day prior, which prompted an inspection by Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).

A timeline provided by the city earlier this week estimated the new pipe would be installed Thursday before it was flushed for three days and quality tested for two days — with the phasing out of restrictions to follow.

Water consumption on the rise

Water consumption in Calgary continues to climb and the mayor was out with a stark warning on Friday.

“If our water usage continues to trend up and our water supply can’t keep up, the taps will run dry at some point,” she said during her morning update, before officials updated the need for further repairs. “We are facing an urgent crisis.”

Gondek explained water usage has been trending upward since last Saturday. Two days ago, Calgary surpassed the sustainable water threshold of 480 million litres, and on Thursday, that threshold was exceeded.

Residents have been continually asked to cut 25 per cent of their water usage.

“Please know your patience is appreciated and your frustrations are understood,” said the mayor during the afternoon news conference. “Your willingness to do your part is the thing that will get us back to water restoration for the entire city.”

The damaged Bearspaw South feeder main also carries water for Airdrie, Strathmore, Chestermere and Tsuu T’ina. The city and surrounding areas will continue to rely on water from the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant until repairs are completed.

Stage 4 outdoor watering restrictions are still in place, and so is a fire ban. Gondek said Friday no indoor water restrictions are planned at this time.

Nancy Mackay, the city’s water services director, said the recent developments have prompted officials to contact some businesses and ask them to stop some operations that use city water.

“If we need to, the city has the ability to turn off water to a business if they are not complying with that ask,” Mackay said.

Mayor pitches workarounds during water crisis

The mayor also reiterated calls to reduce showers and dishwasher and washing machine loads, and suggested Calgarians look to make meals that require less water, put a bucket in their shower to collect grey water, or skip a shave.

She said if every household in the city held off on one flush of the toilet each day it would save 12 million litres of water.

“If we all did three less flushes in our households, we would we back to the low water usage that we saw on Saturday, when we were in very good shape,” said Gondek in second update Friday in the early afternoon.

She also encouraged people to take advantage of the rain that is in the forecast this weekend to capture water in containers or kiddie pools.

“You can use it for things like your garden on the days that it’s not raining, and you can use it for uses where you don’t need clean drinking water,” she said.

The mayor also came to the defense of city services, saying operations such as golf course watering is taking place using recycled water. Gondek says that is also the case for car washes that are still running.

CityNews will have the latest on the situation as it develops. Listen for live updates here.

With files from The Canadian Press

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