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Calgary water emergency could take a week to be repaired, city officials say

Click to play video: 'Calgary water emergency: Why will repair of the feeder main break take a week?'
Calgary water emergency: Why will repair of the feeder main break take a week?
WATCH: Calgary water emergency: Why will repair of the feeder main break take a week? – Jun 9, 2024

It could take crews roughly one week to repair a massive water main break that has forced Calgarians across the city to conserve water use, according to the city’s manager of drinking water distribution.

Emergency officials held a press conference Saturday afternoon to provide an update on the water issue that first arose Wednesday night.

Chris Huston told reporters that repair crews have been working around the clock to repair the water main.

He said staff continued to pump water away from the site to determine what needs to be repaired. They are also preparing the feeder main for inspection to determine how the water main broke.

Click to play video: 'Officials continues to ask Calgarians to restrict use as crews work on water main break'
Officials continues to ask Calgarians to restrict use as crews work on water main break

Huston said the city’s Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant usually produces 500 megalitres of water each day but is currently producing 130 megalitres.

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It could produce more, but there’s nowhere to store the water, he said.

“We just want Calgarians to be prepared and understand that it still will take some time to get this back in service,” Huston said, adding there are still many unknowns.

“We want to ensure that we take time to do this right. If everything goes really well, we’re looking at least another five to seven days before the situation is resolved.”

The water supply concerns were triggered Wednesday night by a massive water main break in the Montgomery neighbourhood in northwest Calgary, which spurred a boil water advisory for residents of Bowness.

Officials have described the broken feeder main as a “critical water transmission line.” They note the damage has “severely impacted” Calgary’s water supply and the ability to move water across the city.

Nancy Mackay, the City of Calgary’s water services director, said it’s still highly risky that the city runs out of water. Credit: City of Calgary

Nancy Mackay, the City of Calgary’s water services director, said crews were able to pump treated drinking water to underground reservoirs overnight, putting Calgary’s supply in a “more sustainable position.”

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On Friday, water use dropped to roughly 484 million litres. The city’s target is 480 million litres.

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“There is still a high risk that we can run out of water,” Mackay said.

Calgarians were asked Thursday to stop using water outdoors and minimize indoor water use. City staff are recommending people take shorter showers, skip “a few flushes” and hold off on a load of laundry.

Susan Henry, the chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said the city has responded to 300 calls about water misuse and 34 calls related to an active fire ban, put in place Thursday to prevent unnecessary fires.

To date, officials have issued 61 warnings about water misuse. Henry said most Calgarians have been compliant and understanding.

Susan Henry, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, speaks to reporters at a news conference on June 7, 2024. Credit: City of Calgary

She said staff continue to employ an “education-first approach” when responding to complaints about water misuse, adding enforcement actions will begin this weekend for repeat offenders.

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Henry also told Calgarians to avoid the area near the feeder break as it disrupts crews busy with repair work.

“We need to give them the space to do the work so that they can do this as quickly and as safely as possible,” Henry said.

“I’d like to again urge you to continue to save water for the next few days while we work on this problem. Keep doing what you’re doing. Every small action you take makes a big difference.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary’s water supply crisis: expert weighs in'
Calgary’s water supply crisis: expert weighs in

While the city remains under an active fire ban, Henry said propane stoves and BBQs are allowed. The boil water advisory in Bowness also remains in effect.

Water wagons have been set up in various parts of Bowness to support residents.

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In addition to spurring water conservation efforts in Calgary, the damage has prompted officials in Airdrie, Strathmore and Chestermere to limit water use.

People in those communities can visit their municipality’s websites for the latest information.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Friday that businesses are doing their best to reduce water use. Credit: City of Calgary

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Friday that businesses are doing their best to reduce water use and encouraged Calgarians to support local stores in the Bowness area.

She also pleaded with residents to encourage family and friends to take the water emergency seriously.

“I can’t stress enough that we will run out of water if we don’t take action individually right now,” said Gondek.

“This is not a joke. It is not some conspiracy. It is a fact.”

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Gondek said hospitals, care facilities and schools are counting on residents to reduce their water use to continue providing critical services to folks in need.

In a statement to Global News on Friday, Premier Danielle Smith Calgarians need access to clean water.

“My hope is that this issue gets resolved rapidly and we’re pleased to see how quickly the city has responded,” she said.

Smith said the province will provide $223.8 million to the City of Calgary for LGFF (Local Government Fiscal Framework) funding with no strings attached.

“Mayor Jyoti Gondek has never asked us for funding to repair their water supply infrastructure. These systems are funded by a user pay system,” she said.

“Calgarians are paying for this infrastructure each month on their water bills. If anything, I would encourage the mayor and city to immediately review and assess all water supply infrastructure.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary Mayor continues to urge water conservation amid critical water main break'
Calgary Mayor continues to urge water conservation amid critical water main break

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