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Calgary orders Stage One water restrictions

Bow River is at the lowest level since 1911.

The City of Calgary will impose water restrictions due to ongoing drought conditions in the area.

Calgary is currently under a heat warning, which means that daytime highs are between 30 to 35 degrees with overnight lows in the mid-teens.  These warnings are issued when high temperatures can pose an elevated risk of heat illnesses such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

In late July, the City asked citizens to voluntarily reduce water use. They said at the time that further restrictions may be needed if drought conditions continued.

“Because we continue to see dry conditions and record-level low flows in the Bow and Elbow Rivers,” said Nicole Newton, Manager of Natural Environment and Adaptation.

“We are now moving the drought dial to very low and declaring outdoor watering restrictions at Stage One.”

Newton said this is the first time in Calgary’s history that Stage One water restrictions have been enacted because of drought. They were last implemented in 2005, but it was due to flooding at the time.

On the Elbow River, it’s the lowest flow since 2000, and the lowest on the Bow River since 1911. Newton said low snowpack and earlier-than-normal snow melt are contributing factors to the low flow.

“It is not normal for this time of year. I’m not sure I want to say unprecedented but I do think that there are some historical lows that are taking place and it will just depend on if we get the snowpack going into this winter and into next spring as well,” she said.

Newton stressed that this was a water quantity issue, not a water quality issue.

Chris Huston, manager of drinking water distribution, said the city monitors flow rates and that’s why it’s important that Calgarians stick with their specified dates for watering.

“We know what the daily demand is. Right now, it’s usually around 650 million litres per day is kind of the daily demand. We’re trying to get that down and so that’s why these restrictions are important,” he said.

Rules around using Calgary water

Under the city’s Water Utility Bylaw, the Director, Water Services can declare an outdoor water use restriction. The restrictions can be put in place for the entire City or for specific geographic areas of Calgary.

Under Stage One restrictions, Calgarians can only water lawns, gardens, trees and shrubs one day per week with a hose-connected sprinkler to a maximum of two hours between 4 and 7 a.m., 9 to 11 a.m. or 7 to 10 p.m.

Watering of gardens, shrubs and trees with an automatic shut-off connected hose is still allowed. You can also water newly planted sod or grass seeds (must have evidence of recent installation).

Watering of plants for commercial sale is also still allowed.

Citizens are also not allowed to wash sidewalks, driveways, exterior building surfaces, or other outdoor services, unless where needed due to health and safety regulations. Washing cars outdoors is also not allowed unless it must under health and safety regulations.

Manual window washing (except by licensed cleaning services) is also not allowed.

The City of Calgary has been limiting its water use as well, and with this next stage, the Parks and Open Spaces unit will reduce water usage by an additional 15 per cent, Newton said. Water parks will remain open for now, as will Olympic Plaza as it is an urban heat reduction area for Calgary’s vulnerable population.

The penalty for not abiding by the Stage One restrictions is up to a $400 fine.

Newton said, however, that they will take an education-first approach to enforcement. She said Calgary bylaw will be out patrolling neighbourhoods.

“Calgarians are encouraged to connect with their neighbours if they do see someone operating outside of the schedules,” she said.

“As an alternative, they can contact 311 and submit a request to have someone follow up with that individual.”

More information will be provided by the City of Calgary later this morning. More information on City of Calgary water restrictions can be found here or in the document below.

Outdoor Water Restrictions … by Darren Krause