Bell: Gondek appeals to frustrated, angry Calgarians in water crisis

Calgarians will step up but, truth be told, they are not happy

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We were told we would get answers on the busted water pipe in due time.

We got one hell of a big answer late Friday.

There are more repairs to be done, five more hot spots on the pipe needing to be fixed.

It could be late July before water in Calgary is flowing normally, though Mayor Jyoti Gondek promises to try to make it happen faster, now reaching out to the private sector to “bring our best and brightest to the table” and also reaching out to the UCP government of Premier Danielle Smith.

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Now, there is a local state of emergency and it allows the city to go on private property, according to the mayor.

Your scribbler and a CTV reporter are the only two members of the press at the city’s Emergency Operations Centre when we hear the latest water announcement early Saturday morning.

Just hours before, on a day where Calgarians were once again told they had to do more to reduce their use of water, the awful news broke.

This is the worst mess the city had seen on a main water pipe.

Of course, everyone was gobsmacked. Then, the disappointment kicked in for all of us.

For many, frustration followed. For some, downright anger.

Now the city, hopefully by bringing in help from a private sector willing to do their part, can get the job done and make things run right.

Mayor Gondek needs to rally Calgarians.

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Yes, in the early going after the rupture of the pipe, the mayor played the blame game with the province and the feds. Yes, there was poor communication as folks had all kinds of questions.

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Yes, the City of Calgary had to explain why they didn’t inspect the water pipe and didn’t see a problem.

That being said, the mayor tells us going forward she has a plan to get Calgarians on board for the long haul.

She will speak to Calgarians every day, twice a day. She says no one was more disappointed than she was when the nasty news hit the street.

“We can do this together. We have done many things together in the past,” says Gondek.

“We are good at this. I believe Calgarians will rise to this occasion as they have done on many others.”

The mayor says the city and the province are looking at every possible solution to get the water out of the Bearspaw treatment plant to the reservoirs.

Gondek is asked about tougher measures to cut water use if Calgarians don’t do enough to reduce how much water they use.

“It remains to be seen what we need to do in the coming weeks,” she says.

Speaking directly to Calgarians, Gondek says daily updates “allow you to understand how well you’re doing and when you need to dig in and do a little bit more.”

Gondek adds how the city’s water team is “looking closely at what may need to be done” if the remaining water supply gets lower.

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The mayor says you can’t water your lawn, you can’t wash your car in your driveway and “don’t think at midnight you can sneak out and water your garden because no one is looking.”

A question about the Stampede. Will they need to adapt to the new water reality if there isn’t a fix before they open?

Gondek says she is “not in a position to speculate” on what might need to be done into July.

So it goes.

A week and a half into the crisis, City of Calgary higher-ups are now talking tough, saying they are “bringing in every tool in the toolbox” and taking “an aggressive approach” and “planning for all eventualities” and insisting they know what they need to do.

This is not like the flood of 2013.

This is not a case of nature unleashing its fury, an attack on the city from the outside.

This is a case of a major city water supply pipe that broke and now shows signs it could break again and again and again and again and again.

Calgarians will step up but, truth be told, they are not happy.

Most will park that unhappiness — for now. Saturday is this city’s Neighbour Day, a tradition begun after the flood.

On this sobering Saturday, this Neighbour Day, Gondek again mentions the city might be able to fix things faster than announced though it is too hard to tell.

It is our hope.

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