The City of Lethbridge has declared a state of emergency because the supply of treated water is critically low and a boil water advisory was issued on Wednesday afternoon.

Officials are asking residents and business owners to try and conserve water wherever possible and limit usage to essentials only.

The city says it will implement a boil water order at 4:00 p.m. and says tap water will no longer be drinkable.

The order includes the communities of Picture Butte, Coaldale and Coalhurst.

Officials are asking residents to cooperate and not hoard water as there are concerns there would not be enough water for fire suppression if needed.

The water shortage comes after the high seasonal temperatures caused a quick snow melt, in turn causing high turbidity in the river from which the city draws its water.

Reports say that the water has been hard to treat at the water treatment plant and as a result, the plant has been temporarily shut down and crews are unable to restore storage levels.

According to estimates, the city only has an eight hour supply of treated water.

Residents are advised to limit their water usage to cooking and drinking only.

The city has also asked car washes to halt operations and large industrial businesses to greatly reduce their water usage.

Municipal facilities, such as pools and arenas, will be shut down at noon.

Late Wednesday, Alberta Health Services started contacting patients, who are scheduled on Thursday for elective surgeries and some diagnostic tests at Chinook Regional Hospital, to reschedule those procedures.

“With the current level of turbidity in the water, our equipment simply can’t be properly and safely cleaned and sterilized,” said Dr. Vanessa Maclean, Medical Director, South Zone. “We are very sorry to everyone who will be impacted by this decision, I want to assure everyone it is not made lightly and is made to ensure the safety of our patients.”

The AHS says some procedures, scheduled for Friday, may also be affected but that will be dependent on the water quality status on Thursday.

AHS says they will be contacting those patients affected as not all procedures are impacted.

Officials say emergency surgical cases will be handled with current supplies and they are making efforts to secure additional supplies in case they are needed.

The State of Emergency and boil water order are in effect until further notice.

For more information on what to do during and after a boil water order, click HERE.