While the repair work on the five damaged areas of the water feeder main in Northwest Calgary is complete, city officials have cautioned that the coming stages may present the most risks and that the eventual water restrictions will be lifted in stages. 

What are the next steps and risks?

Francois Bouchart, the Director of Capital Priorities and Investment with the City of Calgary explained that before water is fully restored to the city and surrounding communities, several critical steps remain.

Calgary City officials have said there are several more steps to complete before water restrictions area ease. (Graphic credit to The City of Calgary)Calgary City officials have said there are several more steps to complete before water restrictions are eased. (Graphic credit to The City of Calgary)

"Our system has just undergone a major shock... To stabilize our system, we need to move carefully. We have four steps: filling the feeder main, flushing the feeder main, testing the water and then stabilizing the system," he said. "This this delicate work. Each one of these steps carries the risk [and it] is likely that we can have some setbacks along the way."

He said that the first step would be refilling the pipe with water, which would take approximately 14 million litres of water.

"We will start this work as early as Wednesday night or Thursday morning and if all goes well, it will take about a day or two to complete. During this filling stage, the pipe will experience an increase in pressure, which increases the risk of stress. This is not just a risk for this feeder, but it's a typical risk for any pipe that's being filled. We're managing this risk by filling the pipe carefully and using acoustic monitors to listen for pings that could indicate further wire breaks. We're also using sensors that will detect pressure spikes."

He noted that with these strategies in place, the risk of potential breaks should be low. Once the feeder main is refilled, crews will begin flushing the pipe.

"During the flushing process, we clean the feeder main by pushing treated water through the system. The intent is to fully replace the water in the feeder main to make sure it's clean. The flushing flush water will exit through valves and fire hydrants with hoses that will run through part of Edworthy Park and into the river. The water will be de-chlorinated before it enters the river."

If this stage goes according to plan, the flushing process will take one day, though Bouchart said there is also the risk of more breaks at this stage.

"This risk increases when we stop flushing and there will be another pressure change in the system. We will be monitoring very carefully for any changes or potential new breaks during this time. Once the flushing is complete, we need to ensure that the water in the feeder main is clean and safe. To do this, we work with Alberta Health Services and Environment and Protected Areas on water testing," he explained. "We will take samples of water in the pipe and they will be sent to the lab for testing."

Microbiology analysis requires 18 to 20 hours to observe any information on bacteria that can be harmful to the public and water quality parameters must meet or exceed the city's water quality guidelines.

"If the results show the water is safe, we can move to the next stage. If the results show any issues with water quality, we will need to flush the line again and do additional testing which will take an additional 24 hours to complete. Once the water meets or exceeds all safety and regulatory requirements, we will start flowing water from the feeder man through the rest of our system."

This step involves turning on pumps and the South Bearspar Treatment plant which will increase pressure in the feeder main and start water flowing through the network, stabilizing the system, and it will take about three to five days.

"This stage has the highest level of risk. Each time pressure changes are introduced into the feeder main or other feeder mains, pipe connections and pipe walls experience additional stress. We will be carefully monitoring the performance of our system during the stage and making necessary adjustments."

Water usage at an all-time high

On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Jyoti Gondek noted that Monday's water usage was at an all-time high.

"... [It was] the highest that we've seen in 10 days. There were 476 million litres of treated water used yesterday citywide," she said. "It's not a trend that any of us want to see."

Airdrie officials stated on Tuesday that, yesterday, the city's water consumption was the highest it has been since June 17.

"This is a reminder we need everyone to continue their efforts to reduce water use, to allow us to meet our 25 per cent water consumption reduction target," the city stated.

City officials also added that when Municipal Enforcement receives a complaint, they investigate and educate residents about the outdoor water ban.

"So far, this approach has resulted in no-repeat complaints or fines. However, repeat occurrences will likely result in fines. Please report any violations to 403-948-8888."

Concerns over Calgary Stampede

Chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), Sue Henry noted that concerns remain over the Calgary Stampede moving forward.

"The stampede has a huge impact on our economy, our community spirit and our tourism. Many businesses and industries rely on the Stampede as a critical event for survival and employment," she noted. "As we said before, we are aiming for the earliest possible restoration of service in our original timeline of three to five weeks, which means we could be getting back into service in time for the start of the Stampede."

Despite this timeline, she said that the city is aware of the delicate transition phase and the risks associated with the next phase of restoring water.

"We have been working very closely with our partners at the Calgary Stampede on how they can use the most minimal amount of water possible, and they're doing some very innovative things to make sure that they don't use a drop more than necessary. They will be using non-potable water for many things on the grounds and transporting treated water to Stampede Park for others. We've been working  with them as a partner to offer our assistance to try and make sure that Calgary's signature event can go on."

She reiterated that visitors to Calgary will be urged to 'live like locals' and conserve as much water as possible.

"When we talk about the usage that occurs during the Calgary Stampede, it's more tied to the weather. When we see the hot weather happening, we see the increase in usage [and that's] not necessarily tied to the Stampede. Additionally, July can be very hot and bring thunderstorms and rain for us," Henry added. "And that typically eases the demand that we need. We are committed to continuing the greatest Outdoor Show on Earth while limiting the impact on our city's water supply for both residents and visitors."

Airdrie offers non-potable water to residents 

The City of Airdrie announced on Friday that it has set up non-potable water tanks for watering plants, flowers and gardens at the Airdrie Recycle Depot.

On Saturday, The City stated that Non-potable water from the tanks at the Recycle Depot will now be accessible during and outside depot hours via a connected hose placed outside the fence.

Residents are asked to bring their buckets—up to five gallons—and fill them using the hose attached to the tanks. The non-potable water is for residential use only.

"This water is for plants, flowers and garden use only. It is not safe for drinking or household use," The City underlined.

It also added that city crews will be doing some dust suppression and street sweeping work this weekend to maintain community safety. However, the water used for this is trucked in from other communities.

Airdrie's Recycle Depot is located at 21 East Lake Hill. The Depot is open Wednesday to Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed Monday and Tuesday. 

Airdrie and Calgary remain under water restrictions and fire ban 

Airdrie and Calgary remain under water restrictions and a fire ban. 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 rainwater.
  • 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.

"The fire ban will remain in effect until repairs to the broken water main pipe in Calgary are made and normal water consumption can resume," The City stated on June 6. 

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."

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