Water restrictions and bans
The information we collect through our monitoring helps us carefully manage water storage at the Glenmore Reservoir and other City-owned infrastructure. The City also collaborates with Alberta Environment and Parks, and partners such as TransAlta and downstream Irrigation Districts to manage water supply and demand along the Bow River.
During the onset of a drought, City services will also reduce their water use where and when it is safe to do so. This includes:
About water restrictions
What are mandatory outdoor water restrictions or a 'water ban'?
In an effort to manage water use in times of shortage, the Water Utility Bylaw outlines City of Calgary water restrictions. The bylaw outlines four stages of mandatory restrictions based on the severity of the water shortage. The first stage is the least restrictive while the fourth is the most restrictive.
Many factors are taken into consideration when outdoor water restrictions are implemented. These factors include available water, raw water quality, construction and maintenance of infrastructure, reservoir storage and the nature of the emergency.
The decision to start and stop outdoor water restrictions is made using the judgment and expertise of Water Services professionals. Each day, we assess our ability to meet the watering needs of all our customers.
How much can I water and when?
When water restrictions are activated, you can find out what stage of water restrictions are in place information will be made available online or by calling 311.
When do water restrictions start and finish?
Outdoor water restrictions are announced a number of different ways. Information will be made available online, in the local media and via social media. You can also find additional information by calling 311 (or 403.268.2489 outside Alberta).
As the situation changes, we will update this information, and once the water shortage has passed, we'll make a similar announcement in the media notifying citizens that water restrictions are done.
Why are there four stages of restrictions?
We use four stages of water restrictions to reduce demand for water, while minimizing the impact to customers. If the current stage of restriction does not decrease water demand, the next restrictive stage is implemented.
Who is affected by water restrictions?
All City of Calgary Water Customers, including City operations, must comply with watering restrictions according to the bylaw.
Is drinking water safe during water restrictions?
Yes. In times of water shortage, the treated water from your tap is as safe to drink as usual. When a water shortage is announced, we are experiencing difficulties producing the volume of water necessary to meet all of Calgary's needs. It does not indicate that your water quality has deteriorated in any way.
In what situations would there be a shortage?
There are a variety of reasons why Calgary could experience a water shortage. These include regional drought, poor river quality (raw water), infrastructure maintenance, repairs or upgrades, high demand due to short-term, hot, dry weather or other unpredictable events.
Why do City crews let out water from the fire hydrants during restrictions?
In some situations, critical water main flushing activities may take place in order to restore water services to customers.
After a repair has been done to a water main, the pipes must be flushed out to remove any sediment and contaminants in the pipes. This is to ensure the water meets all water quality requirements and legislation.
The water coming from the hydrants is carefully monitored and controlled to ensure that only the minimal amount of water needed is used. All City crews are aware of any outdoor water restrictions and do their best to limit water use.
How are water restrictions enforced?
Outdoor water restrictions are enforced under the Water Utility Bylaw. The Bylaw outlines the penalties, and possible fines, for violations of water use depending on the stage of outdoor water restriction.
Are there any activities that are exempt from restrictions?
Yes, please see the Water Utility Bylaw for a list of exemptions.
While not an bylaw exception, learn more about how becoming a Water Managed Sites allows some leniency with restrictions.
Where can I find more bylaw information?
Information about outdoor water restrictions is located in the Water Utility Bylaw.
Who do I call if my neighbour is not complying with water restrictions?
If you know your neighbour, you may want to make them aware of the outdoor water restrictions. Otherwise, call 311 to report violations to Bylaw Services.
This applies to other citizens, businesses or The City of Calgary operations that may not be complying with outdoor water restrictions.
During restrictions, do I have to change my indoor water use?
No, Stage 1 through 4 water restrictions apply to the outdoor use of water only. You are not required to restrict the amount of water used indoors; however, The City encourages all Calgarians to voluntarily take action on reducing their indoor use by doing the following:
- Implement water-saving appliances such as low water use toilets. For more information, visit indoor water conservation.
- Use the dishwasher and washing machine only when required and with full loads
- Don't let the tap run unnecessarily. This includes turning off the tap when brushing teeth, shaving and washing hands or face.
- Limit showering to five minutes.
What does The City do to reduce water use during restrictions?
We make every effort to reduce non-essential water use across The City during this time and are committed to doing as much as we can to play our part. The following are some of the reductions in water use we put in place:
City parks: The City has approximately 1,150 hectares of park space across Calgary and we reduce and/or stop watering lawns, gardens, trees and shrubs in most of these areas. We monitor our parks and only when necessary, we may water popular park spaces (e.g. regional parks like Princes Island). These parks see lots of visitors and we need to ensure they remain a safe and healthy space to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. We also may water newly planted trees and turf only when necessary.
Golf courses: City-owned golf courses use untreated water and don't need to restrict watering. This includes Shaganappi, Confederation, Maple Ridge, McCall Lake and Lakeview.
City vehicles: Exterior washing of City vehicles and buses will be limited to health and safety concerns.
City buildings: Irrigation systems at City-owned and operated buildings will be turned off.
Can I wash my vehicle during outdoor water restrictions?
During an outdoor watering restriction, licensed commercial vehicle washes may still operate. But unless you need to wash your vehicle for health and safety reasons, we may ask you to postpone washing your vehicle, especially during level four restrictions.
As for washing your car by hand on the street, it is a Bylaw violation to let soap and detergent enter the storm drainage system. The water from commercial vehicle washes, on the other hand, gets treated by The City's sanitary system.
Can outdoor surfaces or the exterior of a building be washed?
If the washing of outdoor surfaces is required for health and safety regulations, then it is allowed. This would apply to businesses like child care facilities, food and beverage establishments, kennels or animal care facilities.
Can I get my windows washed during outdoor watering restrictions?
Yes, you can hire a licensed window washer to manually wash your windows.
How do watering restrictions apply to licensed power washing businesses?
Licensed power washing businesses may continue to operate where they provide exterior power washing services to customers for health and safety purposes. These customers would include child care facilities, food and beverage establishments, kennels or animal care facilities.
How can I apply for an exemption during outdoor water restrictions?
At certain stages of outdoor water restrictions, some activities such as filling of outdoor hot tubs, swimming, wading pools, outdoor snow or ice making, and pesticide or fertilizer application is not allowed. However, exemptions may be permitted by the Director, Water Services for these specific activities in certain cases. Applications for special consideration or exemptions can be submitted by contacting 311. Your request will be sent to the proper staff for investigation and if required you may be contacted for further information. Once the information is reviewed, you will be advised of any decisions.