Calgary officials are estimating that there will be three to five more weeks of water restrictions after it was discovered that additional emergency repairs must be made to a water feedermain in Calgary that broke last week.

"Following a further investigation of the city's water feedermain, significant additional damage has been found and other sections of the pipe now also need to be repaired," a city press release stated.

"The City of Calgary has made the prudent decision to fix the locations of concern along the line while the pipe is bare and dry. Fixing the initially identified problem without addressing these other trouble spots carries a high risk of another major rupture and potential impacts on public safety."

City officials explain possible contributing factors that led to the current water feedermain break

Francois Bouchard, Director of Capital Priorities and Investments said that they determined what he called a significant contributing factor to the feedermain break in the city's northwest. 

"[It] was the breakage of pre-stressed steel wires. When these wires break in multiple places, it weakens the pipe and can lead to a catastrophic failure, as we are experiencing," he said. "The wires are coiled within an inner layer of concrete pipe. The feedermain is constructed with pipe segments that are 16 feet and the steel wire wraps approximately 350 times - like a slinky around each pipe segment."

The wire is meant to provide structural stability for the pipe and help it manage high water pressures.

"As the pipe ages, it's normal for some of the wires to break without compromising the integrity of the pipe. However, it becomes problematic as the number of breaks increases. So far, we have inspected 4.3 kilometres of pipe to see if there are any other issues. We have now received the data that has helped us to get a clearer picture of what we're dealing with. We have discovered five hotspots."

What does this mean for current repairs?

Bouchard said that the location of these five 'hotspots' is southeast of the current break, before the Shaganappi Pump Station, which is located in north Edworthy Park. 

"As we saw in our current break when the wires break in multiple places, it weakens the pipe and can lead to a catastrophic pipe failure. The degree of breakage we're seeing in the sections of the pipe requires emergency repair. Our decision is that we repair these locations as quickly and safely and as effectively as we can." 

The assessment data shows that the hotspots cannot safely withstand the amount of pressure that is needed to run through the feedermain.

"This means that if we were to complete current repairs and restore the water feedermain now, it would be at high risk of additional catastrophic breaks," Bouchard added.

The next step is to drain an additional 300 meters of pipe that still had water in it.

"We are draining it now and checking to see if there are any additional hotspots that will also need to be fixed immediately. We are working with partners across North America to source the parts we need for an immediate repair. We are committed to getting this done as fast as possible."

'The most dramatic and traumatic break of the feedermain they have ever seen'

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief, Sue Henry explained that experts have deemed this current water main break as, 'the most dramatic and traumatic break of the feedermain they have ever seen.'

"This pipe is only at the halfway point in its lifecycle. From all accounts, this should not have happened, but it did. We are still working to understand why. We know we can fix the link where the current break is," she said. "We know that the pipe is not safe to bring into service, without these repairs. Simply put, we cannot take the chance of further pipe breaks on the long-term sustainability of this pipe."

Henry said that the critical role of the feedermain is not only essential to Calgary, but to surrounding areas like Airdrie, Strathmore, and Chestermere. 

Risks to other treatment plant?

Henry said there is also a risk to the Glenmore Treatment plant.

"The Glenmore Treatment Plant has been carrying a massive load, trying to supply water to the rest of Calgary without the help of the Bearspaw Treatment Plant. That means there is more risk for the Glenmore plant."

Preparations have begun to bring in what Henry called redundant parts, as well as personnel and equipment on standby.

"...To make sure that we're in a position to address any issues quickly and keep the water supply that we currently have. We essentially want to bubble wrap that Glenmore Treatment Plant, so we keep it safe [and] protected as [much as] possible."

Water restrictions will continue, and businesses are asked to conserve more 

Although city officials said that residents must continue to abide by water restrictions and do whatever they can to lower their water consumption, Henry said that businesses will also have to address their water use.

"We cannot expect residents alone to be in this situation and our outreach teams have been in touch with more than 7,000 customers to reduce their water use. Many have and continue to step up in their operations. But if education doesn't work, we will be more directly addressing this in the days to come," she said.

Water Services Director, Nancy Mackay said that the decision to undertake the repairs now, means that the Glenmore plant will be working at its highest capacity.

"But we need to have to ask for your help. Stage four outdoor watering restrictions remain in place until the feedermain is back in operation. This means that you cannot use water for outdoor purposes," Mackay said. "Over the past several days, we've been working with our large industrial commercial customers to ask them to do whatever they can to reduce water. By and large, we've received excellent cooperation with many businesses changing their processes and taking extra steps to save all the water that they can."

However, Mackay said that there have been questions about whether there will be tougher restrictions on certain water-using industries.

"With today's situation, we are now contacting some customers to ask them to stop some operations and some activities. If we need - to the city can turn off water to a business if they are not complying with that ask. This would be a last resort."

Mackay restated the need to cut water consumption by 25 per cent.

Impacts on Calgary Stampede?

In response to a question about whether the situation will impact the Calgary Stampede, Henry said that the Calgary Stampede is one of the agency members. 

"They're working on contingency plans as we speak and helping understand this news. It's too early to project what will occur," she said. 

Are indoor water restrictions possible?

Earlier in the day, Mayor Jyoti Gondek underlined that while there are no current indoor water restrictions, if water consumption does not decrease, further restrictions may have to be implemented.

"We are counting on your goodwill to reduce your indoor water use. But, if we cannot do our part by banding together, there may be some restrictions that come into place. We do not know what that looks like. I don't want to get to that stage."

Mayor Gondek was joined by Airdrie Mayor, Peter Brown on Friday morning, with both mayors pleading with residents to be mindful of their water usage. 

"We want to remind all of our businesses, and all of our residents to continue to be vigilant, reduce the amount of water, and take the stress off the system," Mayor Brown said.

The urgent call for water conservation was echoed in Mayor Gondek's Friday afternoon update, as she underlined that residents' efforts are essential for life-saving measures, including firefighting efforts, and hospitals, as well as for schools to remain open.

"We must do better to use less water: plain and simple. If our water usage continues to trend up and our water supply can't keep pace, our taps will run dry," Mayor Gondek stated. "You and I, we cannot give up on our water conservation efforts. While the two-meter-wide feedermain is being repaired."

Calgary Fire Chief provides a summary of firefighting efforts during this water crisis

Earlier on Friday, Calgary Fire Chief, Steve Dongworth spoke about the various strategies the city's fire department is utilizing. He also underlined that while a fire in the community of Woodbine earlier this week consumed 100,000 litres of water; water availability was not an issue. However, he urged residents to conserve water, nonetheless.

"We are urging you to continue to conserve water so that this remains true while the water main repair work continues," he said. hydrogen supply has been sufficient to extinguish every Calgary Fire Department fire or fire that the Calgary fire departments attended, I guess I should say in the past week.