Water crisis: what we’ve seen so far

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What most people hoped was a simple water main break earlier this month turned into a complex and catastrophic problem impacting the water system of all Calgarians. When Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek declared the city in state of emergency on Saturday as a result of the ongoing problems, the situation became even more urgent. Here’s a day-by-day look at how Calgary got to this point.

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Wednesday afternoon: Reports begin arriving at 911 that massive streams of water are shooting out of the ground on the busy 16 Avenue N.W., near Home Road, in the community of Montgomery (which borders the community of Bowness.)

9:35 p.m.: The City of Calgary issues a notice confirming there’s been an “extensive water main break” in the two communities and Calgarians should be prepared to reduce usage both indoors and outdoors. A portion of 16th Avenue N.W. is closed.

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The water main break closed 16th Avenue N.W. — a major thoroughfare in Calgary. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia


5:02 a.m.: The City of Calgary puts out a “boil water advisory” for the community of Bowness, telling residents they must boil water for least one minute before using it for drinking, washing produce, preparing infant formula and brushing teeth. The City also implements an immediate Stage 4 outdoor watering restriction order, prohibiting outdoor water usage and asking Calgarians to limit shower times and delay use of dishwashers and washing machines. Laundromats and car washes are asked to reduce water usage, while those that use water to deliver life-sustaining services to people, pets and plants are exempt, as are those who use water to meet health code standards, such as hospitals and restaurants.

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10 a.m.: Nine water wagons are stationed in Bowness to help residents access clean water.

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The City of Calgary installed water wagons throughout the community of Bowness, as residents there coped with a “boil water” order. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

2 p.m.: City officials explain that the water break is on a critical transmission line that enables water to move across the city. Businesses that use water for non-essential services such as window cleaning and construction are asked to stop water usage. A ban on the use of fire pits, outdoor fireplaces and campfires is also put in place to reduce the risk of accidental fires, which could lead to huge needs for water. Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek urges Calgarians to reduce water usage.


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8 a.m.: The City announces that while Calgarians were able to reduce water yesterday morning, usage levels climbed in the late afternoon and evening. Officials ask Calgarians to now reduce usage by 25 per cent, noting, “If Calgarians do not reduce our water use, we are at risk of running out.” Meanwhile, work crews continue to pump water away from the area surrounding the break to try to determine a cause.

5:57 p.m.: In a City of Calgary news release, Water Services director Nancy Mackay says that work crews have successfully uncovered the damaged pipe and exposed the break, which is a key step in finalizing repair plans. On the issue of water usage Mayor Jyoti Gondek notes, “All of our everyday decisions can make a difference. Let’s keep limiting our water usage in our homes. We can get through this together.”

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City of Calgary workers dig away to find the water main break in Bowness in Calgary on Friday, June 7, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia


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10 a.m: City officials say while repair progress is occurring, the water main break is complex and “there are still many unknowns” surrounding the issue. “There is still a high risk that we will run out of water if we don’t continue to conserve as much as we can,” says Water Services director Nancy Mackay. The message is heard: Calgarians usually use 580 million litres of water at this time of the year, but on Saturday usage is at 440 million litres.

City of Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek with Jacqui Esler, executive director of MainStreet Bowness BIA walk through that community, talking about how businesses are coping with the water main break on Saturday, June 8, 2024. DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

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4 p.m.: City crews have cut into the damaged pipe to remove sections that need to be replaced. The boil water advisory continues in Bowness. The Glenmore Water Treatment Plant is working overtime to try to meet water needs, as the main feeder break means water can’t be pumped from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant.

Late into the night: Crews remove part of the damaged water main feeder.


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Afternoon: Video inspection of the damaged pipe occurs to help crews better understand the extent of the problem. Businesses, which use about 35 per cent of Calgary’s water, are also successfully reducing usage, says Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry, adding: “We also want to recognize the businesses and residents in Airdrie, Chestermere and Strathmore who use Calgary’s treated water and have been reducing their consumption, too.”

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7:39 p.m.: The City announces the boil water advisory for the community of Bowness has been lifted. Alberta Health Services has confirmed water in that area meets all guidelines and is safe.

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City of Calgary workers prepare to go into the excavation area at the water main break in Montgomery on Monday June 10, 2024. Gavin Young/Postmedia


10 a.m.: City of Calgary officials announce they are deploying a second robot to travel into the damaged pipe and examine other sections. Water restrictions and fire bans in the city remain in place.

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City of Calgary crews continue work on the major water main break in Calgary on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia


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10 a.m.: Water usage has begun to creep up in the city, leading Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Emergency Management Chief Sue Henry to ask Calgarians to return to those usage practices that led to a 25-per-cent decrease in water use on some previous days. Swimming pools and water parks remain closed.

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Workers prepare joints for a section of new pipeline intended to replace the ruptured feeder water main on 16 Avenue N.W. in Calgary on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedia

9 p.m.: A house fire in Woodbine heightens awareness around the importance of water conservation, as Calgarians are reminded of fire bans and to take extra care when it comes to fire prevention.

9:50 p.m.: Two men working on the main feeder line were taken to hospital after suffering non-life-threatening injuries on the job site. Work was shut down and Occupational Health and Safety Alberta began an inspection of the site.

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Afternoon: Occupational Health and Safety Alberta give the repair site the thumbs up to begin work again. Pipe that’s already been removed is taken to another location for more failure analysis.

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Alberta Occupational Health and Safety officers talk to workers at the scene of the water main break in Montgomery on Thursday June 13, 2024. The repair project was on hold for an investigation after two workers were injured at the site on Wednesday evening. Gavin Young/Postmedia


Friday afternoon: Gondek reaches out to Alberta’s premier and municipal affairs minister, who both offer full support. She also speaks to representatives of the private sector who may be able to assist. “Here in Alberta, we have a world-leading energy sector and companies ready and willing to discuss solutions,” Gondek says. “I want to bring our best and brightest to the table and get this issue resolved for Calgarians as quickly as possible. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation.”

5 p.m.: City officials break the bad news to Calgarians that water restrictions will remain in place for three to five more weeks. An examination of the ruptured Bearspaw south feeder main has revealed there are five more “hot spots” where the pipe could fail. While some parts to complete repairs are in Calgary, the City of Calgary has begun a search across North America looking for the required materials.

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Jyoti Gondek
City of Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaks at the Emergency Operations Centre in Calgary on Friday, June 14, 2024, breaking the news that the water main problem is worse than hoped for; another five “hot spots” that need repair have been found. Jim Wells/Postmedia

8:30 p.m.: Gondek meets with the provincial government’s emergency management cabinet to discuss how the province can support repair efforts in Calgary.


8 a.m.: Calgary is put under a state of local emergency.

8:30 a.m.: Mayor Jyoti Gondek announces to the city that she has signed an order to put the city in a state of the emergency. “This is not a decison that was made lightly,” Gondek said, noting all Calgarians will need to work at putting forward their best three to five weeks of water conservation efforts. “That is difficult to say and I’m sure it’s difficult to hear,” she said. “If we can make this happen faster, we will absolutely make it happen faster.”

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Mayor Jyoti Gondek and other city officials speak to media on Saturday, June 15, 2024 — the day Calgary is put under a state of emergency. Brent Calver/Postmedia

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10 a.m.: Communities across the city begin gathering to celebrate Neighbour Day, an event started 10 years ago to commemorate the spirit of Calgary neighbourhoods that shone during the great flood of 2013. Ironically, Bowness — which was hit hard during the flood — is again one of the most impacted communities during the current water crisis, having lived with a boil water order earlier in the month. The community has to postpone its planned Neighbour Day event of planting trees, due to the new crisis, but continues on with other festivities.

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Laddie Trithara and Abby Vadeboncoeur work the merch table for Neighbour Day at the Bowness Community Association in Calgary on Saturday, June 15, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedia Photo by Brent Calver/Postmedia /Brent Calver/Postmedia

2 p.m.: The City of Calgary has received more than, 1,700 calls about potential water misuse since the current crisis started. More than 1,000 warnings (551 written and 507 verbal warnings) have been issued. Two tickets have been given out to contractors involved in construction work.

3 p.m.: Rainfall begins across most of the city and many Calgarians rush to find whatever containers they can to capture the rain for future use in their gardens.

collecting rain water
Calgary resident Charlene Weishaar puts out buckets to collect rainwater from eavestroughs outside of her home on Saturday, June 15, 2024. With the ongoing water crisis expected to carry on for weeks, city officials are asking Calgarians to conserve water wherever possible. Photo by Brent Calver/Postmedia /Brent Calver/Postmedia


This was the second day of Calgary being in a state of local emergency. It was a dreary Father’s Day, as much of the city seemed to hunker down and start doing more to save water.

8:30 a.m.: Mayor Gondek reported that Calgary had reached its lowest mark of water consumption since the problem started, using only 438 millions of litres of water the day before.

2 p.m.: The City of Calgary announces a myriad of updates on the water crisis:

  • The robotic examination of 300 metres of the feeder main — which hadn’t been previously reviewed — shows no further problems or breaches.
  • The repair of the original rupture is largely complete; the portion of 16th Avenue N.W. at Home Road near that repair site will partially reopen late Sunday night.
  • Parts required to repair the additional five hot spots have begun arriving, including a pipe from San Diego.
  • Repair work on those five hot spots are to begin concurrently on Monday; this will result in new road closures along 16th Avenue N.W.
  • Heavy equipment is arriving Monday to facilitate repairs on those five hot spots.
  • Six private sector partners have been engaged to help with the work.
  • Two round table sessions with experts in related fields have occurred over the weekend; two more, involving heavy construction and tech sector experts, are scheduled. Energy sector representatives have met with City representatives to share expertise and past learnings.
  • Calgarians must continue to reduce water usage, as it will still be three to five weeks until all this work is complete and the water system is operating normally again.

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