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Calgary's water crisis should be a wake-up call for Canada, experts say

Work continues to repair a broken water main in the community of Montgomery in Calgary, on June 11, 2024. (CTV News) Work continues to repair a broken water main in the community of Montgomery in Calgary, on June 11, 2024. (CTV News)
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As Calgary enters its twelfth day of a water crisis caused by a massive water main break, some experts say this should be a wake-up call for other cities across the country.

"If this can happen in a city that does a pretty good job at maintaining their pipes and being aware of the challenges that exist within their system and doing asset condition assessments, then it should be a warning call for other cities,” said Kerry Black, an assistant professor and Canada research chair with the University of Calgary.

Black says there has been a massive infrastructure deficit that exists in Canada and North America.

"We have to prioritize investments into our infrastructure and it can't just be put on the backs of cities," she said.

Troy Vassos, an adjunct professor in civil engineering and an engineering consultant with the University of British Columbia, says the focus shouldn’t just be on new infrastructure, but on infrastructure replacement

"We keep talking about new infrastructure, new pipes, new treatment plants, but in fact, the ticking time bomb is the older infrastructure that has to be replaced."

Meanwhile, Calgary's mayor declared a local state of emergency over the weekend to help expedite repairs.

The feeder main that ruptured on June 5 has been fixed, but five other breaks, called "hot spots" found on the pipe need to be repaired.

"Those repairs have begun and we will continue to work on those concurrently," said Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek

Three of the pipe parts are in Calgary and the other two are coming from San Diego.

The timeline to complete all the repairs is 3 to 5 weeks.

"We are moving heaven and literally earth to get these remaining hot spots as soon as safely possible," said Coby Duerr, the acting chief for the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

Until the pipe is completely fixed, Calgarians and people in some surrounding communities are asked to continue to conserve water indoors and not use water outdoors.

While the repairs will take a while longer, the Calgary Stampede will go on but in a responsible way, says the event's CEO, Joel Cowley.

"Our management team and our volunteer leaders have met to identify all of the places where we used water on Stampede Park during the Calgary Stampede. And to the maximum extent possible, we will seek to offset the use of Calgary treated water in those locations.”

The Stampede draws in visitors from around the world and brings in $282 million to Alberta’s economy. 

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