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Calgary pipe repair could take three to five more weeks as 'significant' damage found

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaks in Calgary on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. Gondek says the conservation efforts are necessary to stop taps from running dry while workers take most of next week to continue fixing a pipe that was found fractured on June 5 and is now stopping water flow into the city's underground reservoirs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Resumption of normal water service in Calgary could be delayed by an extra three to five weeks.

The city says "significant" additional damage has been found in the feedermain that ruptured last week and more sections of the pipe need to be repaired.

It says the additional repairs will be made while the pipe is bare and dry to avoid the risk of another major rupture.

Sue Henry of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency says although this was not the news they were hoping to share, the decision was not made lightly.

The city says Calgarians will need to continue with water-saving measures for longer than expected to ensure emergency reserves don't run dry.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek had earlier pitched workarounds like no shaving and capturing rainwater in kiddie pools.

Gondek said Calgarians are doing their part to conserve water but must do a bit more while crews scramble to fix the water main break, which is sharply reducing water flow into the city's underground reservoirs.

"We are providing you with suggestions and we are counting on your goodwill to reduce your indoor water use," Gondek told a news conference earlier Friday.

"I am worried about our city and our surrounding municipalities. If our water usage continues to trend up and our water supply can't keep up, the taps will run dry at some point."

Calgary, a city of 1.6 million people, and some nearby municipalities including Airdrie and Chestermere, have been under a combination of mandatory and voluntary water cutback rules since the major water line ruptured in Calgary’s northwest.

Residents have been asked to cut their indoor water usage with measures like shorter showers and fewer toilet flushes while outdoor watering is banned.

Gondek said no one is judging people who don’t wash their hair or drive around in dirt-smeared trucks while the restrictions are in place.

"You don't need to wash your car," she said.

"When you're fuelling up, use the squeegee at the gas station.

"We're in water conservation mode, everyone."

She also encouraged people to take advantage of the rain that is in the forecast this weekend to capture water in containers or kiddie pools.

"You can use it for things like your garden on the days that it's not raining, and you can use it for uses where you don't need clean drinking water," she said.

Gondek acknowledged the city has received complaints about golf courses that were observed spraying grass with water and city workers in trucks who were seen watering trees.

But she said that is being done with untreated water that is not safe to drink and is not affecting the availability of treated water.

"It is non-potable or recycled water," she said.

Calgary reported that water consumption was higher than what the city has rationed over the past couple of days, with usage recorded at the threshold 480-million-litre mark on Thursday and well above the threshold the day before that.

Anything higher than the threshold means Calgary is using more water than it can produce and will eventually run out.

Peter Brown, the mayor of Airdrie, which gets its water from Calgary, said reducing water usage by turning off taps while washing hands is a simple ask.

"In Airdrie, we're falling back a bit just as Calgary is, and we want to make sure and remind everyone to conserve water," he said.

"Just as you heard from the mayor, there's tons of ways that we can all do it."

Fixing the ruptured pipe, which is big enough in diameter for a car to drive through, consists of welding a replacement pipe into place, cleaning it and testing it.

Repairs to the pipe were briefly paused earlier this week after two workers were injured.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2024.

-- by Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

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