Mandatory water restrictions in place as sand hampers system

The City of Saskatoon issued an emergency alert on Thursday saying it's mandatory for residents to restrict water use. Global News / File

UPDATE: The mandatory water restriction in place for Saskatoon was lifted at 10 p.m. on Dec. 24.

People are asked to restrict how much water they use as a large amount of sand has entered the water treatment plant and hampered the filtration system.

The city issued the mandatory water restrictions Thursday afternoon. It said the water remains safe to drink.

The situation is expected to be resolved Thursday evening barring residents limit how much water they use, according to Saskatoon Water Director Russ Munro.

“Like a furnace filter in your house, if it starts to fill up, it doesn’t pump as much air as efficiently. It is the same thing with the filters in the water treatment plant,” he said.

Cooking, hand washing, cleaning and short showers are okay, but baths, washing vehicles, flooding rinks or doing several loads of laundry should be avoided.

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Munro said it is not expected the city will run out of water but if the restrictions need to stay in place for a long time, pressure may be reduced or other options will be considered to extend reservoir capacity.

While the plant is providing water, he said the limited amount needs to be used to clean the filtration system. Reduced demand from the public can speed up this process.

“The more we all contribute the faster we all get out of this situation,” he said. “If people don’t comply it takes us much longer for us to get the process turned around and the restrictions may be in place longer.”

Dec. 25 is usually the lowest day for water demand, Munro added.

He did not know why a sudden large amount of sand entered the system. He said it is a “little bit unexpected,” adding it is possible a sand bar moved closer to an intake, though measures are in place to defend the intakes.

Questions about the mandatory restrictions can be directed to the city’s 24-hour customer care centre at 306-975-2476, according to the press release.

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