July 19th, 2024

Calgary mayor says if tests go well, full water service could be restored by July 1

By The Canadian Press on June 26, 2024.

Calgary's mayor says a ruptured pipe that's created a water crisis in the region is fixed and work begins today to fill it with water for testing. Crews continue to work to repair a major water main break and five other weak spots in Calgary, Saturday, June 22, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary’s mayor says if everything goes to plan, the city’s water-conservation crisis could be over by Canada Day.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says water service could be fully restored and restrictions lifted by July 1 if upcoming steps to stabilize a replacement water pipe go as planned.

“If there are any problems in any of those steps “¦ it could be more days,” Gondek told a news conference Wednesday.

“We can see the finish line. It’s close, but we still have more work to do.”

Gondek said until the “all clear” is given, Calgarians can’t lose focus and need to reduce their water use by 25 per cent to avoid the taps going dry.

She said daily water usage has been climbing in recent days but remains below the threshold of 480 million litres needed to keep service going and provide firefighters the resources to combat emergencies.

Calgary, a city of 1.6 million people, and surrounding communities including Airdrie, Chestermere, and Tsuut’ina Nation, have been under a combination of mandatory and voluntary water restrictions since a water main burst in the city’s northwest three weeks ago.

Residents have been asked to limit indoor water use by flushing their toilets less often and doing fewer loads of laundry. Outdoor watering is banned, and people have been encouraged to hydrate their plants using rainwater collected in kiddie pools and other containers.

The timeline has been moving up in recent days as crews scramble to have the line running before the city’s major summer festival, the Calgary Stampede, begins July 5.

Francois Bouchard, Calgary’s infrastructure director, said over the next few days, engineers will pump millions of litres of water through the 4.5 kilometres of replacement water pipe to test it.

The process was to set to start Wednesday night and take up to two days.

Once the pipe is full, he said, workers will flush it out and send the water to Alberta Health Services for testing.

“At each of these steps, there’s a risk of additional breakage or setbacks,” he said.

“People in the community above us may notice an increase in the taste and smell of chlorine in their drinking water. I want to assure you that the water is safe for consumption.”

Gondek said she plans to reach out to her counterpart in Quebec City to offer support or expertise as that city also deals with its own water main break.

She added this water crisis in Calgary has shown the city could be a leader in helping other municipalities receive fair funding as their aging water infrastructure across Canada needs replacing.

“I’m working with my fellow mayors across the country to make sure that our cities get our fair share of infrastructure dollars to keep water flowing in our cities with safety and certainty,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2024.

— by Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

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