June 18th, 2024

‘We will run out’: Calgarians urged to keep cutting water, repairs days away

By The Canadian Press on June 7, 2024.

Calgarians are being urged to keep reducing their water use as work to repair a major water main entered a second day in Calgary, Friday, June 7, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek is urging residents to continue cutting their water use or risk having it run out as crews fix a massive break in a feeder line.

Gondek says there are 23 water reservoirs serving Calgary.

“As we are drawing down on those (reservoirs), that’s where we’re going to get to a point where we run out of water if we don’t start practising some conservation,” Gondek told reporters Friday afternoon.

She said Calgary is in the midst of a “significant water supply challenge” affecting not only the city of roughly 1.6 million people but also surrounding communities.

“That’s why it’s important that we all come together collectively to reduce our usage by 25 per cent,” Gondek said.

Nancy Mackay, director of water services for the city, said it’s now relying on one plant to produce water.

The plant can produce 520 million litres of water a day, she said, but Friday’s demand was about 610 million litres.

Normally, the city stores up to two days’ worth of water in its reservoir system.

“Storage throughout the city is being depleted,” said Mackay.

“We’re not going to run out tomorrow. But I can tell you we will run out in the days to come.”

The city was put under a water emergency after a major feeder main in the northwest fractured Wednesday night, flooding streets and reducing water levels.

The cause of the break wasn’t known. Crews continued work to repair it but officials said it would take days.

Bowness, the neighbourhood directly affected, was under a boil water advisory while the rest of the city, and surrounding communities of Chestermere, Airdrie and Strathmore, were directed to follow a mix of mandatory and voluntary measures.

All residents were under a mandatory ban on outdoor water use, meaning no lawn watering or window washing.

“You need to drink water – you don’t need to wash your vehicle, unless for some reason there is a health and safety risk,” said Sue Henry, head of Calgary’s Emergency Management Agency.

Residents were also asked to reduce indoor water use by taking shorter showers, doing less laundry and dishes, and flushing toilets fewer times.

“In general, we’re asking you (to) cut your standard shower time, whatever that looks like to you,” said Henry.

“We’re asking you to get in, do the basics and get out.”

On Friday night, the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders were still set to host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMahon Stadium. Officials said water use at the game would be minimal.

Hospitals, restaurants and businesses that use water to deliver life-sustaining products or services or to meet health code standards were exempt from restrictions.

Henry said city staff had issued a few warnings for water use violations, and tickets would be a last resort.

“Most of the complaints we’ve received are around people watering their lawns or are around automated sprinkler systems,” Henry said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2024.

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