Calgary needs to conserve more water, even without a crisis: expert

Don’t expect a late snowpack melt to save the day, says a University of Calgary expert who predicts water restrictions could be in place for months in Alberta’s largest city.

Tricia Stadnyk, a professor at the university’s Schulich School of Engineering, says not to count on melting snow to help out in the current water supply crisis caused by a massive water main break in Calgary last week.

“There is not that much more melt to come,” Stadnyk said. “So even though we are still seeing melt right now, the volume isn’t the same as what we would normally expect.

“What it means is caution with the water until next spring, easily.”

Stadnyk said she has noticed Calgarians have taken notice and conserved water since the feeder main break last week, but some more than others.

“What I am seeing is a general awareness, caution and concern,” she said.

“People are really worried (and asking), ‘What does it mean if we run out of water?’ Well, it literally means you turn on your tap (and) there is no water.”

Kerry Black, another expert at the Schulich School of Engineering, said the situation has a lesson that needs to be learned, not just now but into the future as Calgary is the fastest-growing city in Canada but doesn’t have an unlimited supply of water.

“The reality for Calgarians this week is they got a very brief exposure to what it is like to go without,” Black said. “And many Canadian communities still face that.

“Whether we get more snow melt, whether we get more rain, that is not the most important piece. The most important piece is how can we better use our water and conserve our water and make sure all Canadians can have access to safe clean drinking water.”

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