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Calgary lifts indoor water restrictions, outdoor ban remains after water main break

CALGARY — Calgary’s month-long water conservation crisis is one big step closer to being over, as the mayor announced Tuesday that residents are no longer being asked to restrict their indoor water use.

Jyoti Gondek said people can resume their normal number of showers, toilet flushes and loads of laundry and dishes but urged them to go slow.

“The reductions you have been doing at home are not needed anymore, so you can return to using water inside your home the way that you were used to,” the mayor told a news conference.

“We’re asking people (to) ease into this though, so we can continue to make sure that we’ve got enough water supply for everyone.”

Gondek said car washes and indoor pools were also set to reopen Tuesday.

However, a mandatory ban on outdoor water use, including watering lawns, remained in effect, along with a fire ban. Details on lifting those restrictions would be announced soon, Gondek added.

“It’s a good day today,” said Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, standing beside Gondek at the news conference.

But McIver said Calgary’s pipe rupture should remind other municipalities and provinces to be prepared for a water crisis at any moment due to aging water infrastructure.

“This was a surprise to everybody when this happened,” he said.

“The pipe that was supposed to last 100 years lasted 50.”

Gondek said an investigation into the June 5 pipe rupture is underway and a panel of experts is to provide recommendations on how to prevent it from happening again.

She said the city would also soon have an estimate on how much it cost to fix the pipe, which is wide enough to drive a pickup truck through.

Water restrictions were put in place for the city of 1.6 million people and the surrounding communities of Chestermere, Airdrie, and Tsuut’ina Nation, after the major water main that supplies 60 per cent of the region’s drinking water ruptured.

Crews scrambled to repair the breach, shutting down a commuter road to do so. The work was further complicated when five more weak spots in the pipeline were discovered, and Calgary had to wait for new pipe to be delivered from San Diego.

For several days, residents living near the pipeline break were ordered to boil their water.

The city invoked a state of emergency in order to gain access to private property to fix the water main and to remind people of the severity of the crisis. The state of emergency is to be lifted Thursday.

For four weeks, Calgarians were asked to reduce their indoor water use by 25 per cent to keep enough in reserve for hospitals and firefighters.

Along with the indoor restrictions, they were asked to make other sacrifices, such as going longer without getting their trucks or cars washed and collecting rainwater in barrels and kiddie pools for watering plants.

Gondek said, for the most part, Calgarians met those targets.

The resumption of normal indoor water use comes just before Friday’s start of the Calgary Stampede, one of Canada’s signature summer festivals, which brings in thousands of visitors.

The city previously said it did not expect the Stampede to have a major effect on water usage.

The water crisis also raised questions and awareness on the uses of treated and non-treated water.

The city received complaints about crews watering trees and golf courses continuing to hydrate greens. Gondek had to explain the water was not treated and did not impact the use for others.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2024.

— By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

The Canadian Press