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Calgarians continue to cut water consumption over weekend: Gondek

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Calgarians continued to conserve water Saturday as city residents contended with a major water main break that remains days away from being fixed.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek met with the media Sunday, where she shared some encouraging data about Calgary water consumption since the main feeder line ruptured last Wednesday.

On that day, the city’s water consumption was 650 million litres, the mayor said.

By Friday, it had dropped to 484 million litres, a downward trend that continued Saturday, when the unverified number was 440 million litres, Gondek said.

“You can see how your efforts have paid off,” she said.

Gondek said city residents need to continue to curb their water consumption until the broken pipe is fixed later in the week.

She suggested, among other things, turning off timers on sprinklers, no ice making, no running dishwashers unless it’s a full load, turning the tap off while shaving or brushing your teeth and only flushing the toilet when you absolutely have to.

Liz Workun fills water jugs from an emergency supply provided by the city as work to repair a major water main stretches into a second day in Calgary, Friday, June 7, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Responding to some of the most frequently asked questions she has read on the city’s website, she said the average Calgarian uses 173 litres of water a day.

To meet the 25 per cent reduction, each person would have to flush five fewer times a day or have two less kitchen sinks full of water.

Communication breakdown

Gondek also addressed criticisms of the city’s communications during the water main break, particularly for Bowness residents, some of whom are frustrated about the city’s messaging.

“I talked to Molly and Logan and other volunteers at the Bowness Community Association,” Gondek said, “And I walked along the street with Jacqui from the Bowness Business Improvement Association.

“I asked them what their concerns were and … they told me all areas,” she said. “They want to know what the timeline is, and then maybe more communication for residents on the boil water advisory.

“They need more signage on how to find (water) trucks in the community.," she said, continuing. “They also said that we need to communicate in plain language and in other languages for people in the community who might not be fluent in English.

“They also want everyone to understand that the water in the wagons is safe to drink – this is not water that you need to boil.”

Gondek also said there was no flooding in Bowness and added that someone suggested that everyone in Bowness who is able-bodied should strive to be ‘water-buddy’ for those who are not.

Gondek said she’d already spoken to chief administrative officer David Duckworth.

“I said it’s time to step up our game,” she said. “Our communications need to be clear and they to provide people with real examples of how to conserve water.”

Infrastructure maintenance

Gondek responded to questions about April maintenance and inspections of city infrastructure, which said were mainly done closer to the Bearsaw water treatment facility.

“It (maintenance) was not where the failure happened in Bowness,” she said.

She added that the lifespan for the feeder line that broke was 100 years – and the one in Bowness is 50 years old.

“We’re halfway through the life cycle that was anticipated for this piece of infrastructure,” she said.

She added that 98 per cent of the city’s feeder mains, are in good or very good condition.

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

“I can tell you that in our country, Calgary is a leader in terms of the least number of water main breaks.”

She also said she empathizes with gardeners who have been told not to water their gardens.

"I would say that people's worry about their gardens and their plants is real," she said. "They've invested in their gardens. They've invested in doing plantings and I can understand why they need to water them.

"I would say it's probably not the safest thing to be doing," she added. "So I would encourage people to just, you know, wait this out for a few days.

"If the repair goes through the way that we hope it does, we'll be back in action by next weekend. If it takes a little bit longer period of time, I'm sure it's something that we can address."

Food and groceries

Starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, free groceries were distributed by Guru Nanak Free Kitchen Calgary at the Bowness Community Association, at 7904 43 Ave. N.W.

Residents were told to bring a grocery bag and container to fill up with water at the BCA water wagons. There was also free bottled water available.

"Times are challenging as it is, but with the water shortage, things are even more challenging and families have gone out and purchased water, which has cut back on some of their other expenses," said Sarroz Khun, a volunteer with Guru Nanak. 

"Our motto is love all, feed all." 

Selina Andreychuk lives in the Bowness Senior Centre and she was out helping bring water in for other residents with mobility challenges. She said it's been wonderful to see people working together to help one another. 

"This is amazing.This is Bowness pulling together," Andreychuk said. "Thank you to all the volunteers and the community for making this happen."

The city is holding its next update Monday at 8:30 a.m.

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