July 15, 2024

Advancing Business Excellence

Pioneering Corporate Success

City announces two river locations for non-potable water for limited commercial use

Two locations along Calgary’s Bow River have been dedicated to providing non-potable water to industrial water users for construction work after a water feeder main suffered a catastrophic failure this month, disrupting the city’s water supply. 

City officials announced one of the locations (at the West Baker Park boat launch) is officially open, and the second location (at the Ogden boat launch) will open Friday afternoon.

Deputy chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Coby Duerr said access to the water is only for contractors with active development agreements and permits, commercial landscape companies, bulk water station users, and contractors working for capital projects for the City of Calgary and its regional customers.

“This temporary service is free of charge and will be the responsibility of the end user to ensure that the water is appropriate for its intended application,” he said.

This comes after the provincial government issued two temporary diversion licences to the City of Calgary, which allows for 200,000 cubic metres (200 million litres) for non-potable industrial use via diversion points out of the Bow River.

Duerr says the city has been working closely with the local construction industry and support them through the Stage 4 water restrictions.

Work ‘could be done as soon as July 5,’ says mayor

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Thursday the timeline to complete the work needed to repair the feeder main will come into sharper focus as the repair work continues. 

A day earlier, city officials suggested repairs could move quicker than previously expected.

“This is a best-case estimate at this particular point in time,” said Gondek at her public briefing Thursday morning.

“It means that work could be done as soon as July 5, which is exactly three weeks since we discovered and reported that there were five hot spots that needed to be addressed.” 

WATCH | Approved businesses now allowed to draw water from the Bow River: 

Calgary provides update on water main break

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

Wednesday marked two weeks since the critically important Bearspaw south feeder main suffered a rupture. Since then, Stage 4 water restrictions on outdoor water use were enacted alongside a citywide fire ban.

The city says a total of 14 tickets have been issued to companies for violating the water restrictions, and four tickets have been issued in response to the fire ban.

Since the main break, the city’s 311 service has received over 7,600 calls.

Various city services — such as street sweeping, pools and recreation centres — also remain disrupted.

Water conservation remains top of mind for the city.

Gondek says that, on Wednesday, Calgary and the surrounding communities that draw from its water supply used 454 million litres of water, marking the fifth consecutive day of remaining “well below” the 480 million litre usage threshold for safety.

Still unknown is what caused the break, which the city continually refers to as a “catastrophic failure.” 

Total cost still unknown

Earlier this week, the city announced there would be a third-party review into why the water main broke, and two Calgary city councillors say they’re hopeful the review will be able to answer questions for both city council and the public.

Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday morning she hopes the review will lead to more transparency and better communication for the public. 

Wyness says her northwest Calgary constituents have been concerned about how the water system functions and are frustrated the city didn’t catch the issue sooner.

“There’s still some that don’t believe this is actually occurring,” Wyness said.

“I know infrastructure isn’t glamourous … but it is an extremely important part of municipal government.”

a large open excavation. construction workers stand in the background.
One of the ‘hot spot’ sites being excavated for repairs is pictured along 16th Avenue N.W. and 46th Street N.W. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Wyness said she still has questions about how the city will move forward from this event and prevent similar issues from occurring again in the future. 

She hopes to see the city “shift from reactive infrastructure management to proactive.”

Meanwhile, Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot says he’s most concerned about costs.

“My biggest question of course has to do with how we’re going to pay for all this,” he told CBC Radio host Loren McGinnis on Thursday morning.

LISTEN | Two councillors discuss what remains unknown about the water main break:  

Calgary Eyeopener8:36City councillors on the water main break

City councillors have questions about the ongoing water main repairs.

So far, no total cost estimates have been shared by the city.

Chabot also says he’d like answers soon to determine whether this incident would result in additional pressure for the city during budget discussions this fall.

“Do we have the financial means to assure that our entire system is maintained at the highest level possible?”

an aerial view of a water treatment plant building on the water.
The Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant, pictured here, draws water from the Bearspaw Reservoir on the Bow River. The Bearspaw south feeder main runs directly from this plant. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

During Thursday’s press conference, Duerr said CEMA and the city have been tracking all of the expenses related to the feeder main break since “the very first day of this event.”

“From the cost of the materials to the work hours to contractor supports 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.”

a sandwich board sign on green grass reads "mandatory outdoor water restrictions in effect"
As of Wednesday afternoon, the total number of calls to the city’s bylaw service regarding outdoor water restrictions and the fire ban had reached over 7,200. (Helen Pike/CBC)