City of Calgary reduces water use due to drought conditions

Cattle drinking from a dug-out in southern Alberta in the summer of 2021. Quinn Campbell/Global News

Residents and businesses in Calgary are being asked to conserve water as drought conditions worsen due to drier weather and higher temperatures.

The City of Calgary has officially shifted the drought monitoring dial from normal to dry conditions based on the ongoing monitoring of precipitation levels, reservoirs and lake levels, stream flow rates in rivers, and water demand.

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“Despite the moments of intense rainfall through July, our monitoring team continues to see impacts of this year’s dry conditions across Calgary and the region,” said Water Resources Planner Sarah Marshall.

Water restrictions are voluntary during dry drought conditions, but the city is advising residents to reduce watering flowers, turfs in parks and sports fields and to decrease the use of outdoor decorative fountains.

They also recommend watering newly planted trees or turf less often and the city says they will chip in by limiting exterior washing of city vehicles and buses and outdoor watering at city-owned and operated buildings.

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“Right now, Calgary’s reservoir water levels are within normal range, and we want to keep them there. By working together to conserve water use in Calgary today, the better the chance it won’t impact how we and the region would use water later in the season,” said Marshall.

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The city said in a statement Thursday that water use in communities can increase up to 50 per cent in the summer because of outdoor watering.

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To reduce the strain on Calgary’s rivers and water treatment plants, the city suggests cutting down the number of times a week you water your lawn and watering before 7 a.m. or later in the evening.  Avoid washing your sidewalks, driveways, siding, outdoor furniture and leave the grass two to three inches high and add mulch to garden beds to reduce evaporation. Lastly, they recommend capturing rainwater in a rain barrel for use in the garden.

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“If we all take some small steps in reducing our outdoor water use, it will not only benefit our community, but also our neighbours downstream in southern Alberta,” said Marshall.

According to the city, the flows in both the Bow and Elbow rivers are well below normal for this time of year due to the low snowpacks and early snowmelt in the Bow and Elbow river basins. The Glenmore Reservoir is being held at full supply level, while reservoirs upstream remain low.

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The city says they are focused on water quantity, not water quality. Currently water demand in Calgary is within the seasonal average range but with above average temperatures and dry conditions in the long-term forecast, the city expects demand to trend above average.

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Moving forward, the city says they are ramping up efforts to monitor drought conditions and they will continue to work with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, TransAlta and the Downstream Irrigation Districts to manage water supply and demand along the Bow River.

If drought conditions persist, the city warns they may have to implement mandatory outdoor water restrictions.

A water guide is available online and provides ideas on how to be water-efficient in homes and yards.

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