Water crisis leads to uncertainty for Calgary Stampede, chamber warns

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Water crisis causes uncertainty for Calgary Stampede, Chamber issues warning
WATCH: Breaking a streak of mostly bad news, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek revealed that the city reached an all time low in its consumption of water on Saturday night, using just 438 million litres, as city officials continue working to fix five different breaks in a major water line. She said the city currently has "enough water stored to meet demand and also protect ourselves in case of any emergencies." – Jun 17, 2024

As Calgary officials declare a local state of emergency over the water crisis that is expected to last another five weeks, the president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce is raising concerns about how the city’s water crisis may impact the Calgary Stampede.

“We are deeply concerned that the City of Calgary has entered a State of Emergency caused by the deterioration of Calgary’s main water feeder pipe, particularly given the issues will take an additional three to five weeks to resolve,” said Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the organization.

Billed as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” thousands of visitors and many extra animals are expected to show up for the Calgary Stampede from July 5 to 14.

But if the host city doesn’t have enough water, concerns are being raised over how the show can go on.

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Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she signed the paperwork to declare an emergency on Saturday morning following the investigation of the broken pipe, which uncovered five more areas in need of repairs.

She said the declaration grants the city powers it ordinarily wouldn’t have, such as allowing city workers to enter private property to expedite repairs.

“This is not a decision that was made lightly,” she said during a press conference alongside Calgary Emergency Management Agency chief Sue Henry.

“If we can make this happen faster, we will absolutely make it happen faster and I’m determined to do everything that I can to do so.”

Tricia Stadnyk, a professor with the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering and Canada Research Chair in hydrologic modelling, said allowing the Stampede to go ahead is possible with services like water trucks.

“Of course, that’s only the event itself,” she told Global News on Saturday. “I think the real task will be: how do we deal with the influx of visitors and tourists that come with that event?”

In a statement from Friday, the Calgary Stampede said it will continue to work with the city and Emergency Management Agency as the situation evolves.

Standnyk said going ahead with the event isn’t the best call from a water supply point of view.

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Still, there’s a lot more at stake than water, she said.

“There’s so much else that goes into these kind of decisions,” Standnyk said.

It’s not an easy decision to make, and I’m not going to say that there isn’t a way to do it.

“I am confident that the people at the city of Calgary are going to look long and hard at whether or not we host this event and can do so in a sustainable way where it doesn’t add undue stress to the rest of the city population.”

Sol Zia, executive director of the Calgary Hotel Association, said hotels are doing their part by only changing their bedding and towels between guests and shutting down hot tubs.

Visitors coming in by air are being warned of Calgary’s need to conserve, she said.

“Everyone is doing everything they can and we’re asking guests to do everything they can as well,” Zia said Saturday.

Meanwhile, the city is analyzing data to better understand water usage during peak times in July.

“I can’t speculate right now what we may have to do because we’re not at that point yet, but as we get closer, definitely those are conversations we will have,” said Gondek at a Saturday news conference.

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Yedlin said the urgency of this situation “cannot be overstated,” especially with the Calgary Stampede a few short weeks away.

“We strongly encourage the City to mitigate disruptions to ensure our visitor economy and international reputation are unhindered by the current crisis,” she said, noting the Stampede generates $540 million in economic activity for the city and is a critical time for businesses.

Any interruptions could have substantial economic repercussions, she said.

Simple things people can do to conserve water include reducing how often people flush toilets and taking shorter showers, the city said.

The city said commercial users represent around 35 per cent of city water consumption.

Yedlin is also calling on the government to collaborate closely with the business community to address the growing infrastructure gap.

“As Calgary’s population continues to significantly increase each year, it is crucial to ensure our infrastructure keeps pace,” she said.

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