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Calgary mayor delivers stern warning about water use ahead of Sunday update

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek did not mince words when speaking to reporters Sunday morning about the city’s ongoing feeder main break repair after visiting the Bowness Community Association and area businesses.

Ahead of a 4 p.m. press conference about the water emergency, Gondek said officials need to do a better job at providing updates in plain language and outlining exactly what the situation means for Calgarians.

“There’s still people out there that think this is some sort of a joke. Some think it’s a conspiracy theory. It is not,” she said.

“If we don’t practice water conservation, we will run out of water — not because it doesn’t exist at the treatment plant. We can’t get it from there to the reservoirs until this piece of infrastructure is fixed.”

Water supply concerns were first triggered Wednesday night by a massive feeder main break in the Montgomery neighbourhood of northwest Calgary, which triggered a boil-water advisory for residents of Bowness.

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The advisory remains in effect, as does a water supply alert for Airdrie, Strathmore and Chestermere.

Water wagons have been set up in various parts of Bowness to support residents.


Click to play video: 'Calgary water emergency: Repair could take a week, city officials say'


Calgary water emergency: Repair could take a week, city officials say


Calgarians living elsewhere in the city do not need to boil their water, but are still being asked to conserve water.

Officials have described the broken feeder main, which carries water from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant, as a “critical” water transmission line.

The damage has “severely impacted” Calgary’s water supply and the city’s ability to move water.

The city has said the city’s Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant usually distributes 500 megalitres of water each day but is currently distributing 130 megalitres.

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On Sunday, Gondek said fixing the broken feeder main, located on 16th Avenue NW, is not an easy task.


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“A lot of people have said ‘water mains break all the time (and) they get fixed really quickly,’” she said.

“This is the difference between a water main that’s the size of a pizza versus a (feeder) main that you can drive a truck through.”


Click to play video: 'Calgary’s water supply crisis: expert weighs in'


Calgary’s water supply crisis: expert weighs in


When the feeder main broke on Wednesday, the area flooded, she said. Crews then had to pump water away from the site to access the pipe, assess the damage and create a repair plan.

The plan involves cutting out the broken piece, lifting in a steel replacement piece and welding it to the existing concrete pipe. Gondek noted the pipe delivers water to 23 reservoirs, which cover roughly 60 per cent of the city.

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“Following that … we’re going to need to flush it, we’re getting rid of any debris and make sure that the transport of water in that pipe is safe,” she said.

“That’s why this is all going to take — at minimum — five to seven days. It is a really big repair job because this piece of infrastructure is so big, and that feeder main is a major artery.”

Right now, Gondek said the city is relying on water from the South Glenmore Treatment Plant, which is also supplying water to the other 40 per cent of the city.

Once reservoirs normally filled by Bearspaw are empty, they can’t be refilled because the feeder main is broken, she said.

“That’s why we could run out of water,” Gondek said.

“That’s why the situation is so critical and our critical backup plan is in place.”


Click to play video: 'Calgary Mayor continues to urge water conservation amid critical water main break'


Calgary Mayor continues to urge water conservation amid critical water main break


Calgarians have been asked to stop using water outdoors and minimize indoor water use. City staff recommend that people take shorter showers, skip “a few flushes” and hold off on a load of laundry.

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Gondek said Calgarians have been complying with the city’s orders. On Wednesday, about 650 million litres of water were consumed. She believes only 440 million litres were used on Saturday.

She noted the average Calgarian uses about 173 litres of water per day, the equivalent of two full bathtubs.

The city has also been fielding questions about infrastructure maintenance in the wake of Wednesday’s feeder break.

Gondek said city crews routinely perform field checks on valve chambers. Special sensors on pipes also alert crews early to inform them if a pipe is under stress.

According to Gondek, the feeder main was expected to last 100 years. The city only recently reached the 50-year mark. She said the city has invested $300 million over the last six years for water infrastructure maintenance.

Other critical pipes and feeder mains are in “good or very good condition,” she said.

“This piece of infrastructure was also verified to be in good condition,” Gondek said.

When asked by reporters about improved communications with the public, citing the 2013 flood as an example, Gondek admitted communications were much stronger at that time.

She said work is already underway to improve how the city delivers updates.

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“Can I tell you exactly what the breakdown is? No,” she said.

“Can I tell you that it’s getting better? Absolutely, and that started today.”

With the exception of Sunday, Gondek is expected to address reporters every day at 8:30 a.m. until the situation is resolved. Emergency officials will also hold updates at 2 p.m. every day.


Click to play video: 'Calgary water main break spawns ‘critical water supply’ emergency alert, restrictions'


Calgary water main break spawns ‘critical water supply’ emergency alert, restrictions


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