Calgary mayor emphasizes gravity of ongoing water crisis: ‘Our source of life’

Click to play video: 'Calgary mayor praises residents for saving ’50 Olympic-sized’ pools worth of water amid cut downs'
Calgary mayor praises residents for saving ’50 Olympic-sized’ pools worth of water amid cut downs
WATCH ABOVE: On Wednesday morning, Mayor Jyoti Gondek delivered an on-camera statement about the city's water supply – Jun 12, 2024

One day after Calgary emergency officials confirmed a rough timeline for when repairs will be completed on a crucial water main, the city’s mayor reiterated that conservation efforts must continue until the water supply returns to normal.

“I know it’s tough to watch your clothes pile up,” Mayor Jyoti Gondek said as she delivered an on-camera statement on Wednesday morning. “I know it’s tough to look in the mirror sometimes and see some pretty sad, droopy hair. But it’s critical.

“You and I, and all the people and the pets and the plants that we love so much, need water to survive. It is absolutely our source of life. And that’s worth the sacrifice that all of you are making.”

One week ago, a significant water main break occurred in northwest Calgary, triggering a boil water advisory for one neighbourhood that was lifted Monday.

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As a result of the break, Calgarians across the entire city were told to stop using water outdoors and do their best to minimize indoor water use.

City 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.

They have also warned that supply may not be able to meet demand without conservation efforts from Calgarians.

Nancy Mackay, the city’s director of water services, said Wednesday that crews have installed a new pipe and are welding it into place. Once welding is completed, crews will apply a protective coating on the pipe to prevent corrosion. Inspections will be conducted soon after.

A day earlier, Mackay told reporters the city does not have a firm date for the full restoration of water services but that she expected to be able to “share a closer date mid-next week.”

Officials have said they hope to have repairs completed and a new pipe installed sometime on Thursday, but noted that it would then likely still take several days of flushing and testing for the situation to be resolved. A timeline for lifting water restrictions has yet to be determined.

The city remains under a fire ban as officials aim to mitigate the risk of fire crews requiring large amounts of water for fires or other unforeseen circumstances until water services return to normal.

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Gondek said 480 million litres of water was used on Tuesday, and that usage is “creeping up.” Saturday was when Calgarians conserved the most water — 440 million litres were used that day. About 457 million litres and 472 million litres were used on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

“This gradual increase is certainly becoming a concern,” she said on Wednesday. “Please remember that this situation is impacting all of us.”

To conserve water, city officials have suggested Calgarians do things like shorten showers and flush toilets less frequently.

Gondek said she had heard of other unique water-saving methods that some Calgarians were embracing.

“Some of you are making low-prep meals like sandwiches and some of you are barbecuing to cut down on the number of dishes you need to use,” she said. “Some of you are doing things like using your leftover pasta water for your garden.

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“I can tell you that we’ve got a bit of a competition going on in my office where people are talking about using rubber spatulas to scrape their plates instead of rinsing. We have folks who are using the bucket or cup method to do replacement showers — especially hairwashing.”

Sue Henry, the chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, acknowledged how disruptive the emergency response has been and urged Calgarians to continue to keep water usage low.

To date, the city says 311 has logged 4,101 calls related to the water main break. A total of 306 written warnings have been issued since water and fire restrictions were announced, as well as 368 verbal warnings. One summons has been issued.

“Our bylaw officers remain out today in full force to help continue to do the education-first approach,” Henry said.

Gondek said city officials still do not know how the feeder main broke and remain focused on fixing the pipe.

“What happened is what we are trying to identify,” she said. “Right now, the crews are fixed on getting the repair down.

“They are working hard to make sure that we can get water restored. The why and the what are certainly questions that we take to heart, and we will get you those answers as quickly as we can.”

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For the latest updates from the City of Calgary, you can follow the city’s social media channels or click on its website here.

For the latest Alberta Emergency Alerts, you can click on the province’s website here.

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