Approximately 50 per cent of the cutting and removal of damaged pipe sections on the south Bearspaw water feeder main have been completed, and according to City of Calgary Infrastructure Services General Manager Michael Thompson, crews encountered challenges during the process.

Thompson underlined the complexity of the repair, saying the parts are not 'off the shelf'.

"Everything is custom fabricated, and this line was originally installed 49 years ago. The feeder main in this area is not all at the same elevation; it follows the train. When we exposed one of the hotspots, we found the damaged pipe was in a location which changes grade and the pipe is encased in a large concrete block," he said.

Approximately 50 per cent of the cutting and removal of damaged sections of pipe have been completed on the south Bearspaw water feeder main, and according to City of Calgary Infrastructure Services General Manager Michael Thompson, crews did find challenges during the process. (Photo credit to The City of Calgary)Approximately 50 per cent of the cutting and removal of damaged sections of pipe have been completed on the south Bearspaw water feeder main, and according to City of Calgary Infrastructure Services General Manager Michael Thompson, crews did find challenges during the process. (Photo credit to The City of Calgary)

This finding meant that crews could not remove the segment of the damaged pipe without risking damage to the adjacent pipe.

"Instead of cutting out the damaged section of pipe, we're going to structurally reinforce this segment of pipe," Thompson explained. "Prior to this discovery, a contingency plan had been developed for this scenario, and yesterday, we enacted this contingency plan. Until we've completed the removal stage, we continue to run the risk of finding something new and unexpected."

Mayor Jyoti Gondek had also cautioned residents about the July 5 timeline for repairs being completed, saying that this date is the most optimistic outcome.

"... A potential site may require a bit more repair than we had expected, or that water testing is going to take a little bit more time. I want you all to be prepared for these changes to the schedule as we continue to learn more about the progress that we're making," she said on Thursday morning.

The two pipe segments that arrived from San Diego are being sandblasted and coated; once that is complete, the pipes will be transported to the construction site.

Expenses be tracked

While officials were not able to give a dollar amount associated with the water main fixes, Mayor Gondek and Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Acting Chief Coby Duerr assured residents that expenses were being tracked.

"I'm happy to say that Calgary Emergency Management Agency has been tracking all of these costs since the day that this happened and they are consolidating the information as they are receiving it," she said. "We'll have accounting to do on this so that we can all have a fulsome picture and so that we can understand if there are emergency funds that we can apply for either through the provincial or federal government."

Duerr said that on the very first day of the event, CEMA, working with the city's financial department, established city-wide financial coding.

"... To track all related expenses to this event. From the cost of the materials to the work hours, to contractor support, and machinery, it is all being tracked," he said. "While I don't have any precise details at this point on the totals, the cost of this incident will be shared with you."

Summer weather may test water consumption over the weekend

Both Mayor Gondek and Duerr emphasized that the weekend weather may be a test for water conservation as there will be no forecasted rain and hot weather ahead.

"Some practical tips for you for this weekend: Cooking on a barbecue or in a one-pot meal like a crock pot helps save water. Use compostable dishes. Only wash the clothes you need, reduce where you can, and re-wear where you can," Duerr said. "Keep doing what you're doing. Your efforts are taking our making a big difference. Make every drop count." 

Non-potable site opened for commercial use

Duerr said that the West Baker Park boat launch area is now accessible for non-potable water use, and the second site, the South Ogden boat launch area, will open tomorrow afternoon.

"Please note that the Ogden boat launch will closed for regular use while the non-potable water is being distributed. The West Baker Park boat launch will remain open. Currently, access to this non-potable water is only for contractors with active development agreements and permits, commercial landscape companies, bulk water station users, those with hydrant connection unit agreements and contractors working on capital projects for the City of Calgary and regional customers."

Duerr added that this temporary service is free of charge, but it is the end user's responsibility to ensure that the water is appropriate for its intended application.

"I want to end by emphasizing that river water is not safe for drinking. It is only to be used for commercial construction and landscape activities as a way of helping the industry get through the stage for water restrictions."

He said that the city is looking at options to expand the availability to other users in the future.

"This water is not currently available to the general public."

Water consumption remains low despite steady uptick since weekend

Earlier in the day, Mayor Gondek commended residents once again for their water conservation efforts. On Wednesday, water consumption was at 454 million litres within Calgary and the surrounding communities.

"... Which means you're now on a five-day streak of making sure that we stay well below the threshold, and that is such a great job that you have all done," she said. "All of those things are making sure that firefighters and hospitals have access to the emergency water supply if it's needed."

Mayor Gondek noted that the Calgary Fire Department swiftly responded to a house fire in the Bowness area yesterday, and firefighting efforts consumed 600 litres of water.

"You can see how important our saving measures are to the Calgary Fire Department and the folks that were involved in that fire. So, thank you again for everything you're doing."

The Mayor also issued a warning about harassing city workers.

"City workers who are flushing water lines via hydrants are doing this to make sure that they're meeting regulatory standards for water quality, public health and safety and to maintain our water system," Gondek noted. 

She added that The City also received permits from the province to be able to pump water from the Bow River for construction purposes.

"This is peak building season, and we want to make sure that as many houses as possible can be constructed," she said.

Airdrie officials address contingency plans 

According to Airdrie officials, while taking water from storm ponds is prohibited by the city's drainage bylaw, Water Services and Parks Operations are currently exploring opportunities to provide non-potable water to residents for the purposes of watering gardens and flowers.

"At this point, we are working towards having some direction on this shortly."

Many residents have also been inquiring about the city's rain barrel program, which found meteoric success this year. 

"Our regular supplier is sold out for 2024, and we are currently working with another supplier out of Ontario to provide the rest of the rain barrels for those who have pre-ordered with us. We received one shipment from Ontario at the end of last week, and we expect to receive the rest of the barrels we require to cover our pre-orders by the end of June," Airdrie officials wrote in an email.

Based on the numbers provided thus far, the city expects to have approximately 50 additional rain barrels—beyond their pre-orders—available for purchase as they continue to work with the Ontario supplier to see if they can increase this number further. The City also stated that now that they have a more precise timeline of water restrictions, they are going to begin conversations with other municipalities about water.

"We are going to open up conversations about if we need water from other areas and for whom. Discussions on this will continue throughout the week."

And as far as Canada Day is concerned, officials said these are early days.

"We are just starting conversations on how this will impact events; we don’t have anything to comment on this yet, but will in the coming days," an official for the city added.

Airdrie water consumption hit target

In a brief update on Monday afternoon, city officials said that Airdrie residents' water conservation has paid off, hitting a 25 per cent drop in water usage.

"Great work, Airdrie! Our community's efforts to reduce water usage are paying off. Yesterday, June 17, we saw a 25 per cent drop in water usage compared to normal levels before the outdoor water restrictions," The City stated.

However, the Genesis Place pool and aquatics facilities will remain closed until and including July 1. 

"Ice-arena activities resumed over the weekend. The water used to maintain the City’s ice arenas is being supplied from sources outside the Calgary water main break impacted region via a water truck," officials added.

Under level four water restrictions, all outdoor water use is temporarily banned, and indoor water conservation is strongly encouraged. Under level four water restrictions, residents cannot:

  • Water lawns, gardens, trees, shrubs and flowers by any method other than rain water.
  • Wash down any outdoor surfaces, including exterior building surfaces, windows, sidewalks, driveways, or walkways of any sort unless your business requires them to for health and safety reasons.
  • Wash cars on driveways or streets.
  • Fill outdoor decorative features, fountains, pools, or hot tubs.
  • Use potable water for construction purposes such as grading, compaction, or dust control.

No boil water advisories are in effect within the City of Airdrie, and water remains safe to drink.

"To ensure we share the water currently available, we are asking Airdrie residents to immediately restrict indoor water use by taking the following voluntary actions:"

  • Use dishwasher and washing machine only when required and with full loads.
  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Limit showers to five minutes or less and keep baths shallow.
  • Scrape plates clean rather than rinsing food off.
  • Turn off humidifiers and ice machines, delay washing vehicles,
  • Businesses using large volumes of non-essential water, such as laundromats and car washes, are asked to reduce water use.
  • Businesses that use water to deliver a life-sustaining product or service for people and animals are exempt. Other exemptions include businesses using water to meet health code standards, such as health centres and restaurants.

"We thank residents for their cooperation in making temporary sacrifices to ensure that Airdrie and our surrounding communities have water for life-saving purposes," The City added.

Road closures 

Several road closures are associated with the ongoing repairs to the water main.

"Access to all businesses in the area is currently being maintained, and Bowness and Montgomery businesses are open. We encourage you to shop locally and, where possible, plan your route ahead of time to avoid delays."

The following traffic impacts will be in effect until the completion of the feeder main repairs:

  • Westbound lanes along 16 Avenue Northwest from 49 Street Northwest to Home Road will remain closed. Eastbound lanes will be open.
  • 16 Avenue Northwest will be closed in both directions from 46 Street Northwest and 45 Street Northwest
  • 16 Avenue Northwest will be closed in both directions from 43 Street Northwest to Bowness Road Northwest
  • East/West traffic will be detoured onto Bowness Road. Expect delays.
  • Eastbound detour starts at 46 Street to Bowness Road and re-enters 16 Avenue at the Shaganappi Trail interchange.

An Alberta Emergency Alert advisory remains in place for Calgary, Airdrie, Strathmore, and Chestermere.

"... Supply levels remain in a critical state, affecting the city's ability to provide water to communities and ensure adequate water is available to support emergency fire suppression."

While a fire ban remains in place in both Airdrie and Calgary, on Monday, Rocky View County lifted its fire ban. 

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