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Stampede and summer fun still planned for Calgary despite water restrictions

CALGARY — Calgary officials are reassuring residents and tourists planning to visit over the next month that water restrictions won't put a damper on fun.
Calgary's mayor says a major water feeder main has been repaired but the city will remain under water restrictions for several more weeks as engineers begin work to fix five other hot spots. Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaks at an announcement in Calgary on April 25, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Calgary officials are reassuring residents and tourists planning to visit over the next month that water restrictions won't put a damper on fun.

But the first few weeks of summer will look different, as the city continues to fix a major water main that has forced most to restrict their water use.

The Calgary Stampede is still planned to start July 5 but is to use recycled water for cleaning and limit the number of times grandstand seats are cleaned.

"The show will go on, but it will go on in a very responsible manner," Stampede CEO Joel Cowley told a news conference Monday.

"The goal is to provide a great experience, to make sure that everyone is safe — both humans and animals."

City and area hotels are to have closed pools and posted messages encouraging shorter showers.

"I know that summer has been on everyone's minds," said Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

"The summer will move forward."

The city noted in a news release that it reviewed its water demand during Stampede for the past five years and found there was no significant uptick in water use. Part of the reason for this, the release said, was that many Calgarians take vacations outside the city during the festival.

Another reason, it said, is that July can bring big storms, reducing Calgarians need for outdoor watering.

Calgary, a city of 1.6 million people, and surrounding municipalities, including Airdrie, Chestermere, and Tsuut'ina Nation, have been under a combination of mandatory and voluntary water restrictions since the water line ruptured June 5.

All outdoor watering is banned and residents have been asked to reduce toilet flushes, take shorter showers and do fewer loads of laundry and dishes.

While people have, for the most part, been meeting a target of reducing their water use by 25 per cent or more, things went from bad to worse late last week.

While fixing the water line, which provides 60 per cent of the city’s water, crews discovered five more weak spots in need of repair.

On Saturday, the city declared a state of local emergency, a move intended mainly to allow access to private property to effect repairs.

"This was a necessary step to help us prepare for our water being fully restored as efficiently and safely as possible," Gondek said.

The first ruptured area has been fixed, Gondek said, and crews are now focused on repairing the five other areas. That work is expected to take three to five weeks.

"I want to take a moment to reassure Calgarians that we hear you and we are working around the clock to get these repairs done,” Gondek said.

She said work on the five remaining spots won’t be done one at a time. "We will continue to work on those concurrently."

The mayor repeated her pleas for people to limit their water use until repairs are complete and urged businesses to let staff work from home.

"They can take that shorter shower. They can skip a shower. They can do one less flush," she said.

Last week, water consumption was at or had been trending higher than the daily 480-million-litre target set by the city. Gondek said it dropped on the weekend, with 439 million litres used Sunday.

"I very much appreciate the fact that you found other ways to cut down your water usage," she said.

She said she's grateful for support from the provincial and federal governments, along with other cities providing critical replacement parts.

On Sunday, officials displayed a photo depicting a section of replacement pipe from California's San Diego County Water Authority. The pipe came with a spray-painted heart and a message on the side, "Good Luck Calgary."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2024.

— By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

The Canadian Press