City battles water challenges; provides update on frozen water services and melting snow

The City of Calgary is asking for Calgarians’ continued patience and advises that despite new thawing techniques being brought onboard, The City and Calgarians will need to stay vigilant until the deep frost has receded.

“We have brought more resources in, as well as trying additional techniques like using electricity to thaw the pipes, in addition to hot water thawing and steaming the lines with boilers. This has given us some new options, but frozen services will continue to be an issue for us for weeks,” said Chris Huston, Manager of Water Distribution for The City. Huston acknowledged that Calgary is not alone and that other municipalities are having similar issues in other parts of Alberta and Canada due to the extreme cold temperatures experienced this winter.

Huston said recent melting temperatures do not affect what is happening below ground, due to the depth of the frost, and in fact will cause additional work for City crews as water begins to melt. Those who have received letters are still at risk for frozen services and should not stop running their water until told by The City, likely still four to six weeks from now.

While the melting temperatures are welcome news to Calgarians, Corey Colbran, Manager of Wastewater & Stormwater, identified the additional work of supporting melting conditions will increase an already heavy volume of work for crews dispatched to thawing service lines and attending to water main breaks. Colbran advised that there is a role for Calgarians to play in helping crews stay focused where their efforts can do the most good. He asks citizens to:

  • Clear snow or debris away from the storm drain (catchbasin). Create a channel, if need be, to facilitate water flow. Many catchbasins can be easily cleared by neighbours. If you find that the storm drain is iced over, do not try to remove the ice yourself - call 311 and a crew will clear the ice for you. Don’t chip away at ice on storm drains as you may damage it or injure yourself.
  • If water pools near the storm drain give it 90-120 minutes to drain - In most communities developed after 1988, The City has installed special devices in the storm drain to regulate how fast water will flow into the stormwater system. These devices are commonly placed in a low spot in the road to intentionally allow pooling of water. This prevents the stormwater system from being overwhelmed. Monitor the water level for at least 90-120 minutes (depending on snow or rain accumulation) prior to calling 311.

Additionally, by following these simple tips, you can help protect your home, family and potentially, prevent flooding or water damage:

  • Shovel snow away from the foundation of your home to prevent seepage into your basement. Don’t forget your window wells.
  • Check to ensure that furnace and exhaust vents are clear of snow and ice. Blocked vents can create carbon monoxide build up.
  • Ensure your downspouts and eavestroughs are clear and free of debris. Point them down and away from your home/foundation and neighboring properties. Downspouts should ideally extend two metres away from your foundation and must be a minimum of two metres away from public sidewalks and pathways.
  • If you see pooled water on a roadway, be extra cautious. Don’t drive through deep water as you can’t see potential risks or conditions that might be unsafe.
  • Test your sump pump - Spring is the ideal time to test your sump pump. A working pump will prevent flooding in your basement.

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