Caution | Outdoor water restrictions in effect

Stage 3 outdoor water restrictions are in effect. Learn more about how City services are impacted and what you can do during this stage.

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Frequently asked questions about the critical water main break in Calgary.

About the water main break

On the evening of Wednesday, June 5, The City discovered a large water main break in the Bowness and Montgomery area.

The break was on the Bearspaw South Feeder Main, a critical transmission line that carries most of the water from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant into Calgary’s water distribution network.

The initial break and five additional “hot spots” – areas needing emergency repair – were fixed. Indoor water use returned to normal, and Calgary moved to Stage 3 Outdoor Water Restrictions, which allowed for some outdoor water use.

Plans are underway to increase the flow of water through the pipe, which could allow for Outdoor Water Restrictions to be lowered. Increasing the flow will add pressure and stress to the pipe, so teams are moving through this process cautiously, and doing careful monitoring.

Currently, Calgary remains under Stage 3 Outdoor Water Restrictions.

On this page

Water restrictions

When are we moving to Stage 2 restrictions? Stage 1?

We understand the eagerness to lift Outdoor Water Restrictions. The key to being able to do this is increasing the flow of water through the feeder main. The pipe is full of water right now, but it is not moving as quickly as it usually does. Currently, the flow is at 55% of its maximum, and at this rate, we need Stage 3 Outdoor Water Restrictions in place to ensure our water demand doesn’t exceed supply.

By using pumps to increase the speed of water flow, we can increase the amount of water we can supply to Calgarians each day. Our plan involves gradually increasing the flow while monitoring the pipe stability. Once we achieve a 70% flow rate, we will be able to move into Stage 2 Outdoor Water Restrictions.

Starting July 15, we will turn on an additional pump at the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant, which will increase the flow through the pipe. If all goes well, we expect to move to Stage 2 Outdoor Water Restrictions on Thursday, July 18 and potentially to Stage 1 Outdoor Water Restrictions on Monday, July 22.

If we get to Stage 1 Outdoor Water Restrictions and the pipe is operating as expected, we will activate another pump and further increase the flow through the pipe, which could allow us to remove all restrictions.

Bearspaw South feedermain flow

Preparing for setbacks

We are managing the risk between increasing water flow and the pipe’s overall stability. As we increase the water flow it creates pressure in the pipe, which could result in additional wire snaps. This may stop our progress and prolong some level of Outdoor Water Restrictions.

There is also a risk of another pipe failure as we increase the flow, which may be alarming to hear given recent events. However, after careful analysis, we believe the risk is low enough to proceed and if a new break occurs, we are ready to respond rapidly with materials and crews on standby.

What are the various stages of water restrictions? How and when can I use water during them?

There are four stages of mandatory outdoor water restrictions depending on the need to limit water usage. The following table explains how and when you can use water outdoors during the various stages.

Stage 4 Stage 3  Stage 2 Stage 1

Sprinklers, soaker hoses and in-ground sprinkling systems

No

No

Yes - 1 hour/week

  • Even house number: Either Wednesday or Saturday
  • Odd house number: Either Thursday or  Sunday

Watering is allowed between:

  • 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. 
  • 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 
  • 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Yes - 2 hours/week

  • Even house number: Either Wednesday or Saturday
  • Odd house number: Either Thursday or  Sunday

Watering is allowed between:

  • 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. 
  • 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 
  • 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Hose watering

No

No

Yes - Any day/time

Only with a trigger spray nozzle/watering wand, or drip irrigation with an automatic shut off

Yes - Any day/time

Only with a trigger spray nozzle/watering wand, or drip irrigation with an automatic shut off

Hand watering

No

Yes

Any day/time

Yes

Any day/time

Yes

Any day/time

Watering new grass

Water new sod (planted within 21 days) or lawn seed (planted within 45 days) with a sprinkler or hose

No

Yes

Any day/time

Yes

Any day/time

Yes

Any day/time

Washing outdoors

(cars, windows, exterior building surfaces, sidewalks, driveways or walkways)

No

No

No

No

Filling outdoor pools or hot tubs

No

Yes

Any day/time

Yes

Any day/time

Yes

Any day/time

Filling fountains and other decorative features

No

No

No

Excluding bird baths

No
Excluding bird baths

Water use for construction purposes

(e.g.  dust suppression, compaction, concrete mixing and other construction related activities, and maintenance activities for irrigation systems

No

Yes

Any day/time

Yes

Any day/time

Yes

Any day/time

Water use for home renovation projects

(e.g. washing surfaces such as driveways to prepare for paving/sealing or washing a home prior to painting)

No

Yes

Any day/time

Yes  

Any day/time

Yes  

Any day/time

Water use for pesticide and fertilizer application

No

No

Yes  

Any day/time

Yes  

Any day/time

What is our current daily water use?

On Tuesday, July 16 demand was 557 million litres.

We are able to meet the current demand with Stage 3 Outdoor Water Restrictions in place.

Date Litres of water used per day

Thursday, July 4

493 million litres

Friday, July 5

492 million litres

Saturday, July 6 

492 million litres

Sunday, July 7 

507 million litres

Monday, July 8 

540 million litres

Tuesday, July 9 

555 million litres

Wednesday, July 10 

567 million litres

Thursday, July 11 

565 million litres

Friday, July 12 

554 million litres

Saturday, July 13 

535 million litres

Sunday, July 14

531 million litres

Monday, July 15

558 million litres

Tuesday, July 16

557 million litres

If repairs to the feeder main are complete, why are there still restrictions? 

While repairs to the feeder main are complete, our water distribution system is not yet up to full operating capacity. We continue to slowly and cautiously increase water flow through the feeder main and into the rest of the water distribution system, while carefully monitoring for any further issues.  

We are closely watching both water supply and demand through the hotter temperatures to understand when further reductions in Outdoor Water Restrictions are possible. We will share details on any changes as they are available.  

What is allowed under Stage 3 outdoor water restrictions?

Under Stage 3 Outdoor Water Restrictions, hand-watering of plants with a watering can or container is allowed plus other uses.

What is still not allowed under Stage 3 outdoor water restrictions?

Generally, outdoor water use is still not allowed, with the exception of hand-watering and other limited uses.

Why is filling up a watering can from the outdoor faucet to water my plants allowed, but using a nozzle attached to a hose or a sprinkler is not? 

Under Stage 3, you can water plants by hand with a watering can or other container, with water from your outside tap. Hoses and nozzles generally use more water than hand watering, so they are not yet permitted.  

As always, we recommend watering each plant slowly and at its base, and checking soil moisture with a soil moisture meter both before and after watering to determine if water is needed. 

For the purposes of preparing for a home renovation can I use a power washer? 

Power washing prior to a renovation project, such as washing surfaces like driveways to prepare for paving/sealing or washing a home before painting is permitted under Stage 3 Outdoor Water Restrictions.

Given the hot weather, are public pools or spray parks open? 

Public outdoor pools and City of Calgary spray parks were given an exemption from Stage 3 restrictions, as these facilities help us create safe spaces for all Calgarians looking for relief from the heat.  
 
All City wading pools and spray parks are filled with potable water at the beginning of the season and then through a system of filters, recirculate the water the remainder of the season. 

Can you take water out of the rivers?

Residents can now take water for hand-watering from their own tap, therefore we have closed the river water pickup locations for residents. Residents cannot take water from Calgary rivers unless they have a valid permit from the Government of Alberta. Taking water from our rivers is regulated by the Province under the Alberta Water Act. The City of Calgary has the required permits to do so. We will continue to maintain an established site for easy pick up of non-potable river water for commercial use

Can I fill my personal pool?

Yes - An exemption to Stage 3 restrictions has been made for private outdoor pools, including backyard and kiddie pools, to allow heat relief for Calgarians as a matter of health and safety.

Why is The City watering parks during restrictions?

Some of The City’s parks are certified Water Managed Sites that have in-ground irrigation systems certified for water efficiency.

These systems respond to weather and/or soil moisture conditions at that site, applying only the water needed to the landscape to keep it healthy while avoiding water wastage.

During Stage 3 outdoor water restrictions, these sites are still required to reduce their watering by 35 per cent. In addition, during a Stage 3 outdoor watering restriction The City will only water priority sites where Calgarians use frequently like regional parks and sport fields, to keep trees and other natural assets alive, and using best water conservation practices.

What other efforts is The City making to reduce water usage?

City-owned buildings and vehicles

  • Facilities ceased watering plants and flowers, and irrigation of grass areas maintained for city-owned buildings.
  • Decorative water features & fountains were turned off to conserve water.

More on how The City is conserving water

Why are events approved while water restrictions are in place?

Now more than ever we recognize that events are an important way for Calgarians to connect with our community. Event organizers are generally approved to proceed as long as they adhere to water restrictions currently in place.

How did The City make the decision to let the Stampede carry on?

The City has taken a thoughtful and analytical approach to determine whether the Stampede can carry on. As an agency partner, The City has a long history of working with the Calgary Stampede to support them, while maintaining public safety as our top priority.

In making the decision The City looked at past water consumption data. What we found is that there isn’t a significant uptick in water demand during past years. This is due to two factors – during Stampede we know many Calgarians travel elsewhere for their summer vacation plans. We also know that water use is weather dependent. As we know from past years, early July can bring big storms reducing the need to water outdoors.

These graphs show the five-year daily water demand trend two-weeks before Stampede, during Stampede week, and two-weeks after Stampede. As you can see there isn’t a significant uptick in demand noted during past years.

Also of note is that the largest contributing factor to increased water usage is temperatures above 25°C. The “heat dome” that occurred from June 24 to 30, 2021 is one such example (see graph). Fluctuations in water usage from July 3 to 14 each year are also primarily attributed to temperature. Precipitation and overall population growth also contribute.

5 Year Water Usage June 20 to July 28
  • Largest contributing factor of water usage is temperatures above 25°C.
  • Fluctuations in water usage from July 3 to 14 each year primarily attributed to temperature.
  • Many factors contribute to the increase in water usage with the most impactful being temperature, precipitation and population growth.

What is the status of car washes in Calgary?

Indoor car washes are now able to operate normally.

Can we use grey water or water from rain barrels to water plants, shrubs, lawns and gardens?

Yes, even though hand-watering is allowed under Stage 3 restrictions, you can continue to use grey water or water from rain barrels to water plants, shrubs, lawns and gardens. However, grey water and collected rainwater are not potable, which means you shouldn’t drink it. There also may be risks associated with using it on food crops.

If you choose to use rainwater or grey water on your food crops, follow these precautions:

  • Use a drip irrigation system or hand water the plant roots with a watering can. This is called ‘base of plant’ watering and will help to prevent possible contamination of above-ground fruits and vegetables. 
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables to remove as much contamination as possible. 
  • See YardSmart - Rain barrels (calgary.ca) for more information on risks and precautions.

Who do I report watering offenders to?

If you know your neighbor, you may want to ensure they are aware of the outdoor water restrictions before reporting them to Bylaw.

Otherwise, please contact 311 so Bylaw Officers can follow-up to investigate the situation.

The City strives to take an education-first approach with citizens, it’s important that all Calgarians do their part. Therefore, there are penalties for violations.

Is The City concerned about the water levels in Glenmore Reservoir?

No. At this time of year, flows from the Elbow River are typically adequate to supply the high demands on the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant and keep the Glenmore Reservoir maintained.

Water restrictions – businesses

What is allowed under Stage 3 outdoor water restrictions?

The following outdoor water use is allowed in Stage 3:

  • Watering plants, shrubs and trees for commercial sale.
  • Watering of new grass plantings (sod or seed) with reasonable evidence of recent installation.
    • Sod for up to 21 days after planting, seed for up to 45 days after planting.
    • New sod or seed can be watered using any method, including sprinklers, hoses and irrigation systems.
  • Watering gardens, trees and shrubs using a hand-held container or with non-potable water from The City’s commercial river water pick up station.
  • Watering gardens, trees, and shrubs on Water Managed Sites
    • Allowed with sprinklers connected to a Water Managed System at any time of day, within the specified water use reductions.
  • Watering gardens, trees and shrubs that are being installed as part of an infrastructure construction project (e.g. new development, utility infrastructure project, riparian habitat restoration).
  • Washing outdoor surfaces for daycares and dayhomes, restaurants, kennels and animal care facilities.
  • Washing of vehicles indoors to follow health and safety regulations.
    • Washing vehicles outdoors is not permitted.
  • Exterior window washing services and car washes by a business that have a licence to provide such services.
  • Maintenance and associated activities to conduct irrigation system maintenance in both residential and commercial settings.

How do I apply for a Water Managed Site?

The City encourages customers to submit Water Managed Site applications for review this season.

While there were delays related to the feedermain break, we are committed to reviewing and responding to applications as quickly as possible.

Landscaping and Irrigation industry

I’m an irrigation and landscaping company, what can I do during various stages of outdoor water restrictions?

We are currently in Stage 3 Outdoor Water Restrictions. Below is an overview of how water can be used outdoors during the different stages.

Activity/Water Use  Stage 3  Stage 2  Stage 1 

Watering new grass  (sod or seed) in residential or construction settings 

Yes - Any day/time. Any watering method (including irrigation systems)  

  • Sod can be watered within the first 21 days of being installed. 
  • Lawn seed can be watered within the first 45 days of being planted.    

Yes - Any day/time. Any watering method (including irrigation systems)  

  • Sod can be watered within the first 21 days of being installed. 
  • Lawn seed can be watered within the first 45 days of being planted.    

Yes - Any day/time. Any watering method (including irrigation systems)  

  • Sod can be watered within the first 21 days of being installed. 
  • Lawn seed can be watered within the first 45 days of being planted.    

Watering lawns   

No 

Yes - Up to 1 hr/week during specific days and times.

Yes - Up to 2 hrs/week during specific days and times.

Certified Water Managed Sites

Yes - Sprinklers connected to a Water Managed System can be used any day/time following the specified water use reductions.  

Yes - Sprinklers connected to a Water Managed System can be used any day/time following the specified water use reductions.  

Yes - Sprinklers connected to a Water Managed System can be used any day/time following the specified water use reductions.  

Watering gardens, trees and shrubs  

Including new trees and shrubs  

Yes - Using a watering can or container. 

We encourage the use of free non-potable from The City’s river- water pick-up station

Yes - Up to 1 hr/week using a sprinkler connected to hose or irrigation system during specific days and times. 

Using a watering can or container is allowed any day/time.  

Yes - Up to 2 hr/week using a sprinkler connected to hose or irrigation system during specific days and times. 

Using a watering can or container is allowed any day/time. 

Certified Water Managed Sites

Yes - Sprinklers connected to a Certified Water Managed System can be used any day/time following the specified water use reductions.  

Yes - Sprinklers connected to a Certified Water Managed System can be used any day/time following the specified water use reductions.  

Yes - Sprinklers connected to a Certified Water Managed System can be used any day/time following the specified water use reductions.  

* Construction 

Yes - Any day/time  

This includes maintenance of irrigation systems and testing of an irrigation system to support construction activities, including work related to: new development (greenfield or established area), utility infrastructure projects, riparian habitat restoration, development agreements, development permits or to meet regulatory obligation.

Yes - Any day/time  

This includes maintenance of irrigation systems and testing of an irrigation system to support construction activities, including work related to: new development (greenfield or established area), utility infrastructure projects, riparian habitat restoration, development agreements, development permits or to meet regulatory obligation.

Yes - Any day/time  

This includes maintenance of irrigation systems and testing of an irrigation system to support construction activities, including work related to: new development (greenfield or established area), utility infrastructure projects, riparian habitat restoration, development agreements, development permits or to meet regulatory obligation.

* Testing is allowed during Stage 1-3 if required as part of the contractual obligations for a construction project (e.g. Final Acceptance Certificate (FAC) for a park’s irrigation system in a new development, or the occupancy agreement of a new home).

Can water be used to fix or maintain an irrigation system?

Yes. We expanded the scope of construction activities that can use water to include maintenance of irrigation systems.

This means that irrigation companies can run water through the pipes of in-ground sprinkling systems if they are fixing irrigation lines or checking to make sure they are working properly.

After maintenance is completed, property owners must follow the outdoor water restrictions that are in place for irrigation systems.

Is testing allowed for new Water Managed Site applications?

Water Managed Site applicants who apply this season during outdoor water restrictions will not be required to complete their audit test until restrictions are lifted.

About the repair

Has the feedermain been repaired?

Yes, the main break and the five additional hotspots have been repaired, and the feedermain has been filled with water.

Work is now focused on the drinking water distribution system and to what capacity it can safely be operated.

What were the steps involved in repairing the feedermain?

Repair overview

Date Update summary
July 1, 2024 - 2:30 p.m.

We are currently in the final stage of the fill, flush, test, and stabilize phase. Stabilization is a gradual process and is the stage with the greatest risk. We need to move slowly and safely through this step. Read the update for July 1.

June 30, 2024 - 3:00 p.m.

Water quality testing for the repaired section of the 16 Avenue N.W. feeder main, meets and exceeds water quality standards, indicating it is safe for consumption. Read the update for June 30.

June 29, 2024 - 3:00 p.m.

Work is on schedule restoring water service to the feeder main, which crews finished filling with water last night and flushing being completed this afternoon. Read the update for June 29.

June 28, 2024 - 2:45 p.m.

Today we remain in the filling stage as we reintroduce pressure to the pipe slowly and carefully in preparation for flushing. We anticipate this step to be completed later tonight and flushing of the pipe is expected to commence shortly after. Read the update for June 28.

June 27, 2024 - 3:00 p.m.

With paving of 16th Avenue N.W. substantially completed, crews have started slowly and carefully filling the water feeder main and we are on track to start flushing the pipe tomorrow. Read the update for June 27.

June 26, 2024 - 3:00 p.m.

Filling the feeder main line is a delicate process that requires care and attention. Crews slowly pressurize the pipe and fill with water. As the pipe fills, we’re checking for additional breaks and monitoring pressure levels.. Read update for June 26.

June 25, 2024 - 3:18 p.m.

Repair work on the feeder main break is entering a final critical phase. Today we started backfilling the worksite holes and then will begin repaving the site along 16 Avenue NW as quickly as possible. Read update for June 25.

June 24, 2024 - 3:45 p.m.

With work progressing on schedule at the site of a water feeder main break, an overnight fire punctuates the importance of water conservation. Read the update for June 24.

June 23, 2024 - 3:40 p.m.

We have expanded our program to make non-potable river water available to all Calgarians. Find out where and how to collect.

June 23, 2024 - 3:40 p.m.

Repair work continues to progress on the water feeder main hotspots and installation of new pipe sections has begun. We are replacing four out of five of the hotspots. Read update for June 23.

June 22, 2024 - 5 p.m.

Crews at all repair locations are focused on welding. All damaged sections of pipe have been removed and taken off-site for further forensic investigation. Necessary repair materials have arrived on-site today. Read update for June 22

June 21, 2024 - 3 p.m.

With repair work on the water feeder main break progressing on schedule, the City of Calgary renewed its State of Local Emergency for an additional week. Read update for June 21.

June 20, 2024 - 3 p.m.

The City of Calgary has entered the first phase of supplying Calgary's construction industry with non-potable water so they can get back to work during this building season. Read update for June 20.

June 19, 2024 - 4:25 p.m.

With the arrival of two new lengths of pipe from San Diego early this morning and excavation complete at the sites of five hot spots, work on repairing the water feeder main break is progressing faster than expected. Read update for June 19

June 18, 2024 - 6:15 p.m.

The initial site of the large feeder main break has been repaired. Construction activity continues as we strive toward repairing the five hotspots identified beyond the initial break location. Read update for June 18

June 17, 2024 - 5:15 p.m.

Repairs have been completed on the original feeder main break and construction is under way on the remaining five hotspots. Important festivals, conferences and events will go ahead. Read update for June 17

June 16, 2024 - 4:45 p.m.

We have concluded the inspection on the remaining 300 metres of pipe and preliminary results indicate no new hotspots. Expanded road closures will be in effect on 16 Avenue, NW.  Read update for June 16

June 15, 2024 - 3:45 p.m.

Repair work continues on the 16 Avenue Feeder Main and crews have begun inspections at other hotspot locations. Materials for repairs have been sourced and are en route to Calgary. Read update for June 15

June 15, 2024 - 9 a.m.

City declares State of Local Emergency. Read Update for June 15 morning

June 14, 2024 - 6:30 p.m.

A total of 4.3 km of  the pipe has been inspected for further repairs. Five hotspots south of the current break have been assessed to require critical and urgent repair. Current water restrictions will remain in place for 3-5 weeks. Read update for June 14

June 13, 2024 - 6:50 p.m.

Work has resumed after an overnight shut down due to a safety incident. We continue working on repairs as quickly and safely as possible and have transported the removed pipe for additional analysis. Today the focus was on welding the new piece of pipe.  Read update for June 13

June 12, 2024 - 4:15 p.m.

Crews are working on welding repairs on some of the access hatches along the inspected section of the pipe. The new section of the pipe was completely disinfected this morning in preparation for being lowered into place. Read update for June 12

June 11, 2024 - 2:30 p.m.

Today, we are deploying a second robot that will travel further into the pipe to assess more sections. We also expect crews to begin preparing the pipe for its replacement. Read update for June 11

June 10, 2024 - 7:45 p.m.

Boil water advisory lifted for community of Bowness. Read update for June 10 evening

June 10, 2024 - 5 p.m.

Crews are removing sections of the damaged pipe. and inspections are underway. Roads remain closed and Calgarians are urged to stay clear of the work area. Read update for June 10

June 9, 2024 - 7 p.m.

The City of Calgary continues its efforts to repair a large feeder main break near 16 Avenue NW and Home Road. Work is progressing well, and crews are moving closer to replacing the damaged area of pipe. Read update for June 9

June 8, 2024 - 11 a.m.

Crews are preparing the feeder main for inspection to determine the next steps and expect to begin cutting out the damaged section of pipe. Read update for June 8

June 7, 2024 - 6 p.m.

We have uncovered the pipe and exposed the break. We can now pump out the remaining the water, expose the rest of the pipe and finalize repair plans. Read update for June 7 evening

June 7, 2024 - 7:45 a.m.

Our crews are still working around the clock. Overnight, we continued to pump water from the area around the break. We are hopeful that by later today we’ll be able to see the feeder main and determine the cause of the break. Read update for June 7

June 6, 2024 - 3:13 p.m.

We continue to work on repairing a large water main break in the Bowness and Montgomery area. The break is on a critical transmission line that enables us to move water across the city. Read update for June 6

June 5, 2024 - 9:36 p.m.

We have investigated and confirmed an extensive water main break in the N.W. areas of Bowness and Montgomery. We are confirming the full extent of the impacts and will provide more information as soon as we know more information. Read update for June 5

What were the steps involved in stabilizing the drinking water distribution system?

To restore service to the feeder main and stabilize the system, we needed to move carefully. Each step has risks and could create setbacks. The final step of stabilizing the system is taking longer than originally intended.

Step 1: Filled the feeder main (1-2 days). 

Step 2: Flushed the pipe (1 day). Treated water was used to clean the feeder main. 

Step 3: Tested the water (1 day). Water samples were be sent to a lab for analysis. Results were reviewed by Alberta Health Services and Environment and Protected Areas.

Step 4: Pumps at Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant are being turned on gradually and water is flowing through the network.

Why was the new pipe sourced from San Diego? Why wasn't it sourced locally?

Local options were considered first. A pipe of this size is not generally used in oil and gas operations and is typically stocked by organizations that provide water to residents. This pipe could have been custom made locally, but it would have taken a lot of time. In the interest of time, the faster option was chosen to ship from San Diego to ensure that repairs were completed faster.

When was the pipe last inspected? How is a water main inspected?

The most recent maintenance work happened in the spring of 2024, including replacement of air valves and the installation of an acoustic monitoring device. Routine field checks on valve chambers are also performed regularly.

Several test shutdowns were undertaken in the winter of 2023 and spring 2024 in preparation for a full condition assessment planned for December 2024.

98% of our water distribution system is rated as being in “good” or “very good” physical condition. This rating is due to The City’s ongoing condition assessment and maintenance programs, which help to identify and address potential problems.

We are unable to physically inspect all existing infrastructure every year, so physical condition is based on a combination of asset characteristics, physical observations, operational knowledge, and experience of known issues.

How does a break like this impact the whole city?

The Bearspaw South Feeder Main is the most critical feeder main in Calgary’s water system allowing for movement of water to the east and south parts of the city from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant.

Our water system is interconnected and what happens in one part of the system can impact another part. With the feeder main offline, none of the other pipes connected to the line could receive water.

Key facts about this feeder main:

  • It's 11 kilometres long.
  • It has the capacity to transfer more than 400 million litres of water.
  • The diameter of this feeder main varies from 1.5 metres to nearly 2 metres.

Were Shouldice Fields damaged by the break?

Shouldice Fields received damage during the main break on June 5, and we are still assessing the extent.

What is a 'hotspot'?

Hotspots are additional locations of the water main pipe that required replacement. They were found as a result of analysis of the water main pipe in areas beyond the spot of the initial break of June 5, and have now been repaired. The hotspots were not leaks. They were sections of pipe that warranted immediate repair.

Fire ban

Enforcement

How are watering restrictions enforced?

While The City strives to take an education-first approach with citizens, it’s important that all Calgarians do their part. Therefore, there are penalties for violations.

The fines are listed in the Water Utility Bylaw and range from $400 for a violation during Stage 1 to $1500 for a violation during Stage 3.

Where can I report violations of watering restrictions?

If you know your neighbour, you may want to ensure they are aware of the outdoor water restrictions before reporting them to Bylaw.

Otherwise, please contact 311 so bylaw officers can follow up to investigate the situation.

About our water distribution system

What are Calgary's pipes made of?

Steel- 170km, Copper 18km, Concrete(other)- 331km, Concrete (PCCP)-187 km, Ferrous- 1834 km, Polymers- 3031 km

What is a pre-stressed concrete cylindrical pipe (PCCP)?

The feeder main pipe that failed is a pre-stressed concrete cylindrical pipe (PCCP). The pipe has a composite construction made up of a steel reinforcement cable sandwiched between layers of concrete.  

Why did this pipe break?

City engineers and external experts are working to fully understand the cause of the pipe failure, including the contributing factors that led to the premature deterioration of the pipe.

All pipes, regardless of pipe material, will deteriorate over time. In the case of a pre-stressed concrete cylindrical pipe (PCCP), both the concrete and the steel reinforcement can deteriorate and weaken over time. Some of the factors that can contribute to deterioration of a pipe include operating pressures, pressure transients (spikes in pressures), soil conditions, defects during the manufacturing process, physical damage during transportation or installation, poor installation practices, physical damage during excavation work adjacent to the pipe, and bearing loads applying excessive force on the pipe.

Did the pipe break due to excessive operating pressures?

The pipe was operated well within its design pressure. The pressure in the pipe is continuously monitored, and the data confirmed that the pipe was operating at a pressure of approximately 70 psi at the time of the failure. This pressure is well within the pressure rating for this pipe. This pipe had a pressure rating of 150 psi, with a surge pressure of 210 psi.

Could a spike in pressure have caused the break?

Pressure stayed within a normal operating range for this pipe.  An analysis of pressure deviations has been completed as part of the ongoing review of the event.  This analysis supports the monitoring data.

Is there any evidence around root causes that may have contributed to the pipe failure?

The initial exterior visual inspection of one pipe segment that failed shows evidence of physical damage to the exterior of the pipe segment. It is unclear when this damage occurred.  This damage could have led to steel aspects of the pipe being exposed to the soil conditions, potentially leading to corrosion. This will be further investigated as part of the third-party review.

Is it possible there are additional sections of the pipe with similar damage?

While it is impossible to provide a definitive answer, pipes are inspected immediately after installation. Any damage or deficiencies would be corrected before putting the pipe into service. A pipe can also be physically damaged when excavation works are happening in the vicinity of the pipe. A pipe strike would normally be investigated to confirm whether the pipe has been damaged.  Any damage would be repaired before backfilling the site.

Could this failure have been prevented if the pipe had been inspected?

A condition inspection is the best method we have to learning about our assets. An inspection using the latest pipe inspection technology would have likely detected “hot spots” along the length of the pipe.  This is how the five hot spots being repaired as part of this emergency response were found. The hot spots found are not pipe breaks; they are locations where advanced deterioration has occurred.

The inspection robot used to inspect the 4.3 km of pipe requires the pipe to be drained and empty of water. Alternatives are available where the inspection can be completed without draining the pipe; termed in-flow or in-stream condition assessment. 

Why was the inspection not completed if the technology was available?

An inspection plan was being executed prior to the pipe failure. A pipe inspection while in operation carries additional risks. Preliminary work was completed to replace air valves along the feeder main, valves were exercised (physically opening and closing the valves to confirm that they are working) and acoustic monitoring equipment was installed. This work was preparing for of an inspection scheduled for Fall/Winter 2024.  

How does The City monitor the condition of the pipe without completing an inspection?

The City has an annual inspection program for its pipe assets, including feeder mains. The logistics of inspecting over 5,000 km of pipe means that inspection data is supplemented with modeling of pipe condition. Inspection data are used to calibrate this model, which also incorporates factors of pipe material, pipe age, known condition, failure history, location, operating pressures, soil parameters and cathodic protection.

The model, along with an evaluation the assets hydraulic importance in the system, ease of repair, and by understanding the social, environmental, and financial consequences of potential failures, is used to guide inspection efforts and identify candidates for the pipe replacement program.  Pipe breaks are used to continually improve the modeling results. 

I understand The City uses something called acoustic monitoring. What is this and how does it work?

There are two types of acoustic monitoring available for this type of pipe. External acoustic monitors are discreet sensors mounted to the outside of the pipe. They pickup events within the pipe (possible wire breaks) but are low-resolution compared to the fiber optic monitoring. They can tell us if an event occurred near a sensor, but they cannot tell us which pipe section has experienced the event.

The second type of acoustic monitoring is fiber optic acoustic monitoring. Fibre optic cable is installed inside the pipe and is connected to a data acquisition system which can accurately identify the location of an event. Along with the baseline condition, data collected from the electromagnetic inspection can continuously monitor the condition of the pipeline so we can take appropriate action when the wire break count exceeds a threshold.

Given the importance of the Bearspaw South Feeder Main to the operations of the water system, why did The City not do more to safeguard against a failure?

While the risk of a pipe break was deemed lower based on available data and modeling, The City did take action to reduce the impact of a failure. Investments in replacement air valves reduced risk factors to operations. The City has also invested in the reliability of the two water treatment plants and the broader pipe network to improve the capacity of the system to deliver water even when a failure occurs.

The 2011 and 2021 Water Long Range Plans also included future investments that will improve the redundancy of the system. An Emergency Response Plan for the Bearspaw South Feeder Main was prepared to quickly respond to a failure and maintain service while a repair was executed. This plan also included our critical parts inventory.

The City said many water pipes were originally installed around 1975. When are they due to be replaced?

These pipes can last a long time, as much as 100 years in ideal conditions. 98% of Calgary’s feeder mains, which are critical pipes in our distribution system, are in good or very good condition. This is aligned with the target we have set for our system.

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