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Come Hell or No Water: Stampede Spirit Keeps Flowing

Despite the water shortage, the Stampede dreams big, promising that the fun isn't cancelled

As they say, “the show must go on,” and the Calgary Stampede is getting creative to deal with the City’s ongoing water shortage caused by a major water main break on June 5. 

When floods swept through the Stampede grounds in 2013, organizers said, “Come hell or high water.” Back then, the Stampede was up and running In less than two weeks, when most people thought that was an impossible goal.

And now the Stampede has the opposite problem–too little water. 

Calgary’s new motto this year for Stampede is, “Come hell or no water.”

Stampede crowds
Stampede crowds | Jeff McIntosh | The Canadian Press

Bringing in Water

As usual, the Stampede continues to dream big despite the City’s potentially limited water resources.

Organizers plan on trucking hundreds of thousands of gallons to ensure plenty of water on fairgrounds.

“I want to assure you that fun is not cancelled. The summer is not cancelled,” said Coby Duerr, Deputy Chief of the Calgary Emergency Response Agency (CEMA).

Since the current water shortage will likely last through Stampede week, they’re still figuring out how much water they’ll need to bring in and what kind. 

They’re even considering getting permission to take water from the nearby Elbow River, but talks are still in the early stages.

The Stampede has said it will avoid tapping into the City’s supply as much as possible, but “as much as possible” still represents a massive amount of water needed from the city.

The event will need extra water if they plan to do business as usual.

The stampede is a huge user of water from watering tourists and animals to spraying down the infield to prevent a 'dust bowl' | Gnosis | Wikipedia
The stampede is a huge user of water from watering tourists and animals to spraying down the infield to prevent a ‘dust bowl’ | Gnosis | Wikipedia

Stampede Uses Huge Amounts of Water 

The Stampede needs lots of water. 

In addition to “watering” the thousands of hot, sweaty tourists, about 1,000 animals will need to drink and be bathed for nearly two weeks during competition and exhibition.

Add in the water needed to keep the rodeo infield from becoming one giant dust storm, and the litres add up fast.

Some Calgarians are already pissed off at the double standards of allowing the Stampede to use scarce City water to wet dirt, while they can’t water their dying lawns.

Some Calgarians think the Stampede should be cancelled during the water crisis, others think Calgary has the creativity to make the event happen.

The Stampede has always had its critics, from animal rights activists to people thinking Calgary should ditch the nostalgic Western cowboy narrative of the past.

Some groups even claim that, based on their surveys, half of Calgaryians oppose government funding for the event.

Calgarians have already stepped up and sacrificed reducing their water consumption to historic low levels, but will vacationing and partying tourists do the same?

The 138,000 tourists in town are predicted to still consume lots of water. 

Hotels will ask guests to take shorter showers and do less laundry to save water. 

Whether the guests will actually do that is another story.

It’s a tough call. As Stampede CEO Joel Cowley explained, the Stampede brings in $282 million of economic activity in 10 days, not something organizers or the City are going to give up without a “hell” of a fight.

But if the Stampede uses all the water that people in Calgary saved by forsaking showers just to make the dirt wet for tourists, the local people might not like the event this year.

How much more will Calgarians sacrifice to ensure “the show will go on?”

water drop from an outdoor tap
Are Calgarians willing to sacrifice their personal water usage further to ensure the Stampede will go without a hitch this year? | The Rockies.Life Staff

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