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Large southeast fire a reminder of the need for water conservation efforts, Calgary officials say

Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Chief Sue Henry says Calgarians had a sobering reminder of why water conservation efforts are vital at this time.

During an update on the ongoing water main break repairs and the city’s water supply, she and Mayor Jyoti Gondek pointed to a large condominium fire late Sunday in southeast Calgary that displaced residents and tore through homes.

The main break on June 5 led to outdoor water restrictions, with the city also urging residents and businesses to cut back on their own use to help ensure an adequate water supply.

“The water-saving efforts that everyone has made have allowed us to respond to this large fire and continue to support others,” Henry said Monday afternoon.

“This is a reminder why our water conservation efforts are so important.”

According to the Calgary Fire Department, crews used three million litres of water to put out the blaze.

Gondek said that more patience will be needed once all the fixes for the pipe are in place, with crews still aiming for a target date of July 5.

a construction worker saws a giant pipe.
Officials say they have been tracking all of the costs associated with a major water feeder main break that disrupted Calgary’s water supply, but no figures have yet been shared with the public. (Fritzology Inc./City of Calgary)

“Even after crews are done the repair work, there are several days that are going to be needed to get the water pressure back into the pipes to make sure any valves or pipes that were modified in the emergency situation are restored to their typical uses,” she said.

Strathmore water-use drops

Meanwhile, the mayor of nearby Strathmore, which relies on Calgary for its potable water, said he’s proud of his community’s response to water restrictions.

“Since the start of the Calgary water restrictions, we [Strathmore] have reduced our water usage by an average of 24 per cent, and a couple of days we hit 31 per cent,” Pat Fule told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

But the incident could be a sign of things to come.

“Unfortunately, I worry that this is giving us a taste of what it might be like 30 years from now,” he said.

“This area we live in is not in the best situation as far as water sourcing, and we have to be careful. We have to be aware of how much we use. This is kind of exposure to that situation.”

WATCH | Officials update Calgarians on the latest developments of the main break and water supply:

Calgary provides update on water main break

3 hours ago

Duration 25:32

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

Strathmore used to manage its own water source but as the town grew, pressure from businesses and developers led council in the early 2000s to enter the current partnership with Calgary, he said.

“We are still very confident in the water supply coming from Calgary. But it does make us think that potentially maybe we should have access to a small reservoir with a treatment plant that could be an emergency source. It will all come down to the money. There would be a lot of capital involved in that.”

YMCA lifeguards in limbo

Back in Calgary, a social services provider is struggling with staffing challenges related to the lack of water.

“It’s a tough time, undoubtedly,” Nick Wiggins of the Calgary YMCA told CBC News in an interview.

“Over 450 part-time lifeguards work for the Y, and at the moment, they are not able to work fully. This is an important time for them. Most of them are fairly young, seasonal staff who are saving money for university. So we are keen to get them back to work teaching kids to swim.”

He said that since the water main break, 25,000 swimming lessons have been cancelled, but getting back online shouldn’t be too problematic.

“When we get the go-ahead, we should be able to reopen within a day or so,” Wiggins said.

“Modern commercial swimming pools use very little water. It’s not so much the pools, it’s the showers before the pools. Modern recreation centres actually use an awful lot less water than they did many years ago.”

But that’s cold comfort to Jamie Thompson with Alberta Artistic Swimming.

She says teams are now travelling north to get their pool time.

“We have had to take our teams to Red Deer and Edmonton. Artistic swimming really requires a very specific type of facility,” she explained.

“We need a certain depth and a certain amount of space, and there actually are very few facilities in Alberta that offer this.”

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