Calgary declares a local state of emergency due to lengthy water main repairs

Residents and businesses are being asked to reduce water use, including working from home if possible, saving people a morning shower and “worrying about how they look or smell.”

CALGARY – The city of Calgary declared a local state of emergency Saturday due to the city’s limited water supply, a day after officials revealed work to repair a burst water main is expected to take three to five weeks longer than initially expected.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she signed paperwork Saturday morning to declare a state of emergency following the investigation into the broken pipe, which revealed five more areas in need of repairs.

She said the declaration gives the city powers it normally wouldn’t have, such as allowing city workers to enter private property to expedite repairs.

“This is not a decision that was made lightly,” she said during a news conference alongside Sue Henry, head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

“If we can make this happen faster, we will absolutely make it happen faster and I am committed to doing everything we can to do that.”

To help speed up the repair process, Gondek said the city has spoken to municipalities across the continent to obtain parts, equipment and expertise. She added that the city is also looking to the private sector, including companies in Alberta’s energy sector, to help find solutions.

In the meantime, Gondek reiterated a plea for residents and businesses to reduce water consumption during the crisis.

That includes allowing employees to work from home if possible, which she said could save people having to take a morning shower and “worrying about how they look or smell.”

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver issued a statement Saturday saying the Alberta government is supporting the city “in any way necessary” and continues to liaise with provincial and municipal emergency management agencies, as well as Gondek’s office.

“The Government of Alberta supports the City of Calgary in its decision to declare a local state of emergency as this move indicates the critical state of Calgary’s water infrastructure and the work that must happen quickly to return to normal,” McIver said in the statement. declaration.

Calgary, a city of 1.6 million, and several nearby municipalities, including Airdrie and Chestermere, have been under a combination of mandatory and voluntary water conservation rules since the major water line burst in northwest Calgary on June 5.

Gondek said the city reached the maximum threshold of 480 million liters of water on Friday – a figure that has stabilized since the day before.

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

Henry said an analysis of pipe conditions earlier this week showed the rupture was “catastrophic.”

“We have seen the complexity of the one solution we have solved in the last week,” she said.

“With five fixes to put in place, this will be a complex undertaking and we need to ensure we have a smooth path ahead and mitigate as many circumstances as possible.”

The updated timeline for repairs also means water restrictions will likely be in place during the start of the Calgary Stampede, scheduled for July 5 to 14 this year.

The annual fair and rodeo are known for attracting large numbers of tourists and filling Calgary’s bars and restaurants throughout the 10-day festivities.

But Gondek said she would not speculate on whether this year’s edition will have to take place under adjusted rules if the situation is not resolved by opening day.

“What I can tell you is that we have very good partnerships in the city with many organizations, including the Calgary Stampede, and I look forward to understanding their perspective after meeting here yesterday,” she said.

When asked, the Calgary Stampede did not clarify whether organizers are preparing for a modified version of the event, or whether certain parts may be canceled.

“We will continue to work with our partners at the City of Calgary and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency as this situation develops,” spokeswoman Shannon Greer said in an emailed statement.

In 2020, the event was canceled for the first time in more than a century due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and returned the following year under capacity limits.

Tourism Calgary said in a statement Saturday that hotels, restaurants and other venues are “actively involved in water conservation efforts,” and thanked visitors for their understanding and support.

President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce Deborah Yedlin noted that the Stampede generates $540 million in economic impact and any disruptions could have “substantial economic impacts.”

“This is especially acute for the tourism and hospitality sectors that are still working to make up for the difficult years of the pandemic,” Yedlin said in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2024.

— By Sammy Hudes in Toronto, with files from Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

The Canadian Press