‘A minimum of 5 to 7 days’: Calgary provides update on timeline of water main break repair

‘A minimum of 5 to 7 days’: Calgary provides update on timeline of water main break repair

The City of Calgary finally had some good news to share about the catastrophic break in the city’s major feeder water main — the problem section has been identified, and is being prepped for repairs.

But that doesn’t mean water worries for Calgarians are ending soon.

“If everything goes well, we’re looking at at least another five to seven days before the situation is resolved,” Chris Huston, the city’s manager of drinking water distribution, said Saturday morning.

Updating the situation at a 10 a.m. media briefing, the city said that crews reached the damaged section of the critical water main on Friday and began clearing water, dirt and debris to assess the site of the leak. 

Today, crews are preparing the feeder main for inspection to determine the next steps and expect to begin cutting out the damaged section of pipe.

WATCH | Officials urge more water conservation as repairs to water main begin: 

City provides new update on water main break

City officials provide a fifth update on major water main break affecting Calgary’s water supply.

“We are making good progress; however, it’s important to know this is a complex process and I want Calgarians to be prepared and understand that it will take some time to complete this repair,” said Nancy Mackay, the city’s director of water services.

“There are still many unknowns, and we want to ensure we take the time to do this right.”

And while the repair work begins, Calgarians are being asked to continue reducing their water use.

“Yesterday morning, our water use was outstripping our supply. We asked you to do a little bit extra to save water, and I’m thrilled to share that you listened and have stepped up. Today we’re asking you keep it up,” Mackay said Saturday.

We are in a better place than yesterday, but it’s only because of you. There is still a high risk that we will run out of water if we don’t continue to conserve as much as we can.”

A massive water main pipe is shown, damaged and exposed.
The Bearspaw south water main suffered a catastrophic break Wednesday evening. City crews were able to fully expose the damaged section on Friday. (City of Calgary)

Mackay says the city has cut its water use by 25 per cent, but that’s just keeping pace with supply. 

“Water supply and demand is about even right now,” she said.

A major feeder water main break near the western edge of the city plunged Calgary’s water supply into a critical state Wednesday night. 

The Bearspaw south water main, which is 11 kilometres long and as wide as two metres in parts, suffered a break that left hundreds of homes and businesses in the city’s northwest without water.

Just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, the break caused streets to suddenly flood in the Montgomery area around Home Road, forcing the closure of several roads and intersections, including 16 Avenue — part of the Trans-Canada Highway — in both directions.

A drone shot of a water main break.
A drone shot of the spot where the catastrophic water main rupture broke ground, next to a plaza on 16 Ave. N.W., just west of Home Road. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

On Saturday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek thanked local businesses for their conservation efforts.

“Over the past two days, our team has contacted more than 700 of the city’s biggest water consumers to tell them about the ban and ask for their cooperation. We’ve received a very positive response, and most are working to do their part,” she said.

But the mayor reiterated the need to keep those efforts going.

“We will run out of water if we don’t take action,” Gondek said.

WATCH | Are you skipping showers? Calgary’s mayor says she is: 

Calgary mayor says she’s skipping showers, laundry amid water emergency

Calgary officials say crews reached the damaged section of the city’s major feeder water main on Friday and it’s being prepped for repairs. With the situation estimated to take another five to seven days to resolve, Mayor Jyoti Gondek is urging Calgarians to continue reducing their water use.

The Stage 4 water restrictions remain in place, and the city continues to maintain a mandatory outdoor watering ban. Officials are also asking Calgarians to limit their non-essential water use by taking these additional actions:

  • Limiting showers and keeping baths shallow.
  • Delay using appliances that use water, such as dishwashers and washing machines.
  • Turning off humidifiers and ice machines.
  • Turning off water taps when not in use.
  • Reducing water use in any way that can be done safely.

The citywide fire ban is also still in effect.

“Since Thursday, we’ve received 300 calls on water misuse, the majority of those have been resolved. We’ve also received 23 calls related to the fire ban that we are following up on,” said Sue Henry, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA).

Henry said most of the complaints they’ve received have been about people watering lawns or for automated sprinkler systems.

She said the city will continue to take an education-based approach and will only issue tickets as a last resort.

WATCH | Calgary’s water main break, explained: 

Why Calgary’s water main break is a big deal

After a major water main break plunged Calgary’s supply into a critical state, officials expressed concern that the city could run out of water. The reason? The impacted pipe is a key artery in the city’s water infrastructure system. The longer it takes to repair, the more it puts water supply at risk.

“We’re continuing our approach to educate Calgarians first before issuing tickets, but we’ll be beginning some enforcement actions this weekend where we’re getting repeated calls for water misuse. Every small action you can take makes a big difference for everyone,” Henry said.

A boil-water advisory for the community of Bowness remains in place. The boil-water advisory requires all residents and businesses in Bowness to bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute before any consumption, including:

  • Drinking.
  • Brushing teeth.
  • Cleaning raw foods.
  • Preparing infant formula or juices.
  • Making ice.

When asked Saturday if the five-to-seven-day timeline for the water main repairs also applied to the boil-water advisory, Mackay referred to the situation as a “step-by-step process,” and said the boil-water order could take longer to lift.

“We need water to be flowing before we flush those lines,” she said.

WATCH | How residents are dealing with the water main break: 

Calgary water main break forces residents to conserve water

A water main break that left hundreds of homes without water in Calgary triggered an Alberta Emergency Alert, warning that Calgary’s water supply is in a critical state. Residents are being asked to conserve water while the city finds the break and conducts repairs.

The city has placed nine water wagons around the Bowness area in these locations:

  • 4527 77 St. N.W. (Bowness Community Association) 
  • 5927 Bowness Rd. N.W. (Bow Crest Nursing Home). 
  • 7311 34 Ave. N.W. (Our Lady of Assumption School). 
  • 4631 85 St. N.W. (On 85th Street beside Belvedere Parkway School). 
  • 7915 43 Ave. N.W. (Bow Centre Seniors Home). 
  • 2003 46 St. N.W. (James Shouldice Manor, access between school and manor on 47th Street.
  • 82 Juniper Dr. N.W. 
  • 4628 Montgomery Blvd. N.W. (Bow View Manor Nursing Home).
  • 6540 Bowness Rd. N.W. (on 65th Street N.W. beside Bowness Car Wash).

The Trans-Canada Highway remains closed eastbound between Sarcee Trail and Home Road N.W. The highway is also closed westbound between Home Road and 49 Street N.W.

The closure notice is set to be in effect until Monday morning, according to the city’s website.

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said the ongoing water issues have been a “shock” to Bowness residents.

“This community has been through so much since the floods in 2013,” Sharp told CBC Radio host Loren McGinnis on Friday morning.

LISTEN | Ward 1 city councillor talks about the community impact: 

Calgary Eyeopener8:37Sonya Sharp on the water main break

We check in on the community of Bowness, which remains under a boil water advisory. 

Despite the stress, Sharp said that the Bowness Community Association became a hub for the neighbourhood to help each other out on Thursday.

The city councillor said that for senior residents and residents with mobility issues, the water wagon locations weren’t easily accessible. Calgarians are being asked to check on their neighbours in the area. In order to address the immediate need for water, community members have been delivering bottles to each other’s houses and the local community centre.

“It just shows that this community comes together so quickly and supports one another.”

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