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Work begins to fix problem spots on Calgary water main; restrictions to last weeks

Calgary’s mayor says a major water feeder main has been repaired but the city will remain under water restrictions for several more weeks as engineers begin work to fix five other hot spots. Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaks at an announcement in Calgary on April 25, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

With a rupture to one of Calgary’s main water pipelines now fixed, attention shifted Monday to fixing five more weak spots in the line, as residents were urged to continue conserving water.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the three-to-five-week time frame remains for the line to be fixed – a timeline that threatens to intrude on the city’s major summer festival, the Calgary Stampede, which begins July 5.

“I want to take a moment to reassure Calgarians that we hear you and we are working around the clock to get these repairs done,” Gondek told a news conference.

She said work on all five weak spots won’t be done one at a time.

“We will continue to work on those concurrently,” she said.

Calgary, a city of 1.6 million people, and some municipalities surrounding it, including Airdrie, Chestermere, and Tsuut’ina Nation, have been under a combination of mandatory and voluntary water cutback rules since a major water line was found ruptured in Calgary’s northwest on June 5.

There is a ban on all outdoor watering and residents have been asked to reduce toilet flushes, take shorter showers and do fewer loads of laundry and dishes.

While residents have, for the most part, been meeting the target of reducing water use by 25 per cent or more, things went from bad to worse late last week.

While fixing the water line, which provides 60 per cent of the city’s water, crews discovered five more weak spots in need of repair.

On Saturday, the city declared a state of emergency, a move intended mainly to allow access to private property to effect repairs.

“This was a necessary step to help us prepare for our water being fully restored as efficiently and safely as possible,” Gondek said.

The mayor repeated her pleas during the news conference for Calgary’s residents and those in surrounding communities to limit their water use until all repairs are complete.

She said last week that water consumption was at — or had been trending higher than — the daily 480-million-litre target set by the city. She said it dropped on the weekend, with 439-million-litres used on Sunday.

“I very much appreciate the fact that you found other ways to cut down your water usage,” she said.

She urged businesses to let staff work from home.

“They can take that shorter shower. They can skip a shower. They can do one less flush,” she said.

She said she’s grateful for support from the provincial and federal governments along with other cities providing critical replacement parts.

On Sunday, officials held up a photo depicting a section of replacement pipe from California’s San Diego County Water Authority. The pipe came with a spray-painted heart and some words on the side that said Good Luck Calgary.