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Calgary mayor says Stampede opening day best-case scenario to fully restore water

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Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek says the city is committed to a plan to restore water services in early July but cautions it is possible there could be further delays.

"We at the city are doing everything possible to get us to the July 5 target date to get us back to normal flow of water," Gondek said in an update Thursday morning.

The city is "aiming for the low end" of the three-to-five-week timeline of water main repairs.

In an afternoon update, Gondek said work replacing pipe segments with hot spots is about halfway done.

The original break is fixed. The plan was to remove an additional five weak sections of the feeder main but one is placed on a slope, so workers are reinforcing it instead.

“We are not cutting the pipe out, we are preparing to form a concrete box around it,” said Michael Thompson with City of Calgary infrastructure services.

The city says the reinforced concrete feeder main installed in 1975 was deemed “good” quality before it broke.

Sound alarms were installed earlier this year but didn’t detect an issue until the pipe burst.

“We had recently installed the acoustical monitor on this specific pipe this spring and it hadn’t picked up any sounds of the pipe snapping until we had the.. major rupture a couple of weeks ago,” said Thompson.

The new sections of pipe that were already in Calgary are on standby and will be brought to the worksites when needed. The sections of pipe from San Diego are currently being prepared for use.

"The timeline for repair work will come into sharper and sharper focus as this repair work continues," Gondek said Thursday.

"Still, I have to caution that we need to be prepared that each potential site could require a bit more work than we had intended or that water testing is going to take a little bit more time."

Gondek said Calgarians and residents of other communities used 454 million litres of water on Wednesday, which is now five days of staying well below the threshold requirement of 480 million litres.

"We still need you to continue to conserve water," said Coby Duerr, with CEMA. "Make every drop count."

Staying below that threshold for so long has meant firefighters have access to water they need to combat fires.

"I want to commend the Calgary Fire Department on the very rapid response on putting out a fire in Bowness yesterday," Gondek said.

"They were able to put it out by using about 600 litres of water."

Concerned

During her morning address, Gondek said she is concerned about reported harassment of city workers who were out conducting water-related activities such as flushing lines.

She said all of this work is essential to public safety and public health.

"If you have questions about what someone is doing, please call 311 and log your concern," she said.

"At the same time, if you're like me and you think crews are doing a really good job at getting our water restored, reach out to 311 and let them know how much you appreciate the work that's being done."

The city said it is working with Pure Technologies to implement a “SmartBall” inspection or monitoring method for Calgary’s water systems.

 “This is something that can be used for monitoring while there is water in the pipe,” Gondek said, during an update on Thursday afternoon.

Restrictions not just in Calgary

Water restrictions have meant no pool for the pups to splash in and fewer flushes in one Chestermere household as well.

“Honestly, it hasn’t affected my life too much. Shorter shower of course, maybe missing one day here and there,” said Connor Burfoot, a Chestermere resident.

They also added a rain barrel to water the plants. Small measures have made a big difference.

The lakeside community of about 28,000 people is almost entirely residential.

“They have responded so well to these restrictions. In Chestermere, we reported an approximate 22 per cent reduction in our water usage,” said Chestermere communications spokesperson Ty Tomasta.

Further east in Strathmore, the city of 15,000 has done even more. It’s reduced water use by 30 per cent since Calgary declared a state of local emergency.

 “I’m really proud of Strathmore residents,” said Mayor Pat Fule. “I think they’ve bought in and understand the gravity of the situation. I think it helps we are an agricultural community, (where) people understand (the) importance of water.”

Non-potable water for construction

The city has opened its first of two sites along the Bow River to provide non-potable water for construction work.

The city got permission from the province to allow this to get some businesses back to work.

Those allowed to draw from the Bow include: 

  •      Contractors with active development permits;
  •      Commercial landscapers;
  •      Bulk water users with hydrant agreements; and
  •     Contractors on capital projects.

“This was something we needed to do to keep construction schedule on track. We know there are a lot of people building homes and to keep pace with those people finding places to live, construction needs to keep pace.”

The first, which opened on Thursday, is located at the west Baker Park boat launch.

The second site will be opened on Friday, at the Ogden boat launch.

The Ogden boat launch will be closed for regular use while the water is being distributed but the Baker Park boat launch will remain open.

Stage 4 water restrictions are still in place in Calgary and many area communities, which means all outdoor water use is prohibited until further notice.

Additional water guidelines can be found online.

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