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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Thank you to our operational employees

Thank you to our operational employees

Every day, thousands of operational services employees ensure the essential services Calgarians rely on are available, rain or shine. Our community has experienced times of adversity over the past decade, in extreme conditions they have maintained and restored critical infrastructure, utilities, transit, roadways, pathways, transportation networks and made sure public parks and spaces were clean, accessible and safe. 

This webpage pays tribute to the work of our operational frontline teams. We are proud to share their accomplishments and extend our deepest thanks to them for being there for our community, in the good times and the bad.  

Bearspaw South Feeder Main response and repair

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On the evening of June 5, 2024, a break occurred to the Bearspaw South Feeder Main, and for the first time in our city’s history, access to clean drinking water was at risk of being lost within a matter of days.

The broken feeder main temporarily flooded the surrounding roadway and greenspace. It also meant that most of the water from The City’s largest water treatment plant could not flow through our water distribution system. 1.3 million people, local businesses, hospitals, institutions and businesses needed to conserve water to make the most of a significantly reduced supply, and make sure we had enough for essential needs, firefighting and emergency services.

Operational employees acted quickly and diligently to ensure Calgarians and residents of surrounding communities had continued access to clean, safe drinking water. Repairs and inspections were executed skillfully and thoroughly, with the needs of these communities and businesses top of mind for all involved in the work.

The critical repairs and emergency response provided by operational employees included:

  • Deploying emergency water wagons and a boil water advisory to the residents and businesses of Bowness who lost access to treated water for several days due to the location of the feeder main break.
  • Water was redistributed from the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant to serve Calgary, Airdrie, Chestermere, Strathmore and the Tsuut'ina Nation – communities typically served by two treatment plants to maintain sufficient water supply.
  • Repair crews worked diligently, day and night to clear the flooding from the break and locate the damaged section of pipe.
  • The Mobility team provided Ground Penetration Radar testing and drone footage for construction and response planning.
  • Once pipe repair and investigation was underway, Water Services teams acted swiftly to find a way to re-route clean drinking water to Bowness and end the boil water advisory for residents and businesses.
  • The damaged portion of the pipe was removed and the integrity of the remaining pipe near the break was carefully tested.
  • Robotic inspections on the Bearspaw South Feeder Main indicated there were five other areas of the pipe at risk and in need of emergency repairs.
  • A series of complex repairs, including the original site of the break and the five locations of the pipe at risk were undertaken on the feeder main.
  • Communications and customer service teams ensured that Calgarians, media partners and customers had access to important information about water conservation, water restriction instructions and repair progress updates.
  • The Water Services customer service team contacted thousands of customers directly to provide guidance and updates about restrictions and water conservation measures.
  • The Mobility team provided emergency detour response and ongoing traffic control changes supported detoured traffic around construction areas.
  • Operational teams championed the effort to conserve water and prevent fire while maintaining the essential services our communities depend on. Here are just some of the ways Operational Services adapted to help the response:
    • Street sweeping was postponed and adapted for priority areas using non-potable water for street cleaning.
    • City construction and operational teams stopped implementing dust suppression where safe to do so and used non-potable water when dust suppression was required.
    • City athletic fields and green spaces turned off all irrigation systems that used potable water, and where needed to protect new turf, used non-potable water (non-drinking).
    • Non-potable water (non-drinking) drained from pools was used by the Mobility team to clean bridge decks and for construction purposes.
    • Certain asphalt work was modified and permits were postponed for projects that required water.
    • In regular operations, all five City golf course greens are already irrigated with non-potable water sources.
    • City crews & contractors used non-potable water (non-drinking) to protect 500 newly planted trees for Calgary’s tree canopy which supports urban vitality, biodiversity and climate resilience.
    • Wash bays for City vehicles were closed. Vehicles were only washed when necessary to comply with environmental, health & safety requirements.
    • City facilities ceased watering plants and flowers, and buildings with decorative water features and fountains turned water features off to conserve water.
  • Water Services, Parks & Open Spaces and Mobility teams worked together to serve The City’s commercial and residential non-potable river water stations.
  • Once the repair of the pipe was done, backfilling the holes ensured the pipe was safely covered and supported for the actions required to get it back into service – filling, flushing, testing and stabilizing.
  • Filling the 4.5 kilometre section of repaired feeder main with water was a precise process requiring slowly introducing millions of litres of water to the pipe to repressurize it and prepare it for flushing.
  • Flushing and testing the feeder main ensured all sediment was removed and water quality met or exceeded all drinking water regulations and standards.
  • After the pipe flushing was complete, three Water Services crew members were packing up along the banks of the Bow River near Shaganappi pump station when they saw a capsized raft that had been carrying a large group of people upstream. The raft had struck a bridge pillar. Our crew members, who were already wearing lifejackets, jumped into action. One member called 911 immediately while two others tossed ropes to the capsized rafters. Only one person in the water was able to grab a rope. One of our members jumped into the water to guide two others to safety. The crew member calling 911 put the phone down and jumped into the water to rescue two more people. The remaining occupants of the raft were able to make it the riverbanks on their own. The Calgary Fire Department and EMS arrived very quickly and were able to take over the scene.
  • After testing to confirmed the water quality met and exceeded all standards and regulations and was safe to drink, water began flowing from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant through the feeder main.
  • The break to the Bearspaw South Feeder Main caused a huge shock to the water system and careful stabilization began after successful testing results. Initial stabilization enabled the return of indoor water use to more normal levels.
  • With the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant in full operation again, the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant (which had been working a maximum capacity for 26 days) underwent restorative maintenance and temporarily lowered production as part of overall water system stabilization.

Outdoor water restrictions remain and will be eased as the water system continues to stabilize. For more information about current water restrictions visit: Critical water main break - June 2024

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