Officials were forced to declare a local state of emergency Wednesday morning after turbidity in the Oldman River stirred up by fast-melting snow overwhelmed the city’s water treatment plant.
The city said its reserves are low and there is a risk of not having enough water for fire suppression. A fire ban is also in effect for the city.
"Given the size of the city and its water distribution system — it could take days, perhaps even weeks, before we can lift that boil water order," said city spokesperson Doug Hawkins.
Picture Butte, Coaldale and Coalhurst residents are also being asked to limit water use to drinking and cooking along with Lethbridge residents.
Locals are being asked to postpone all outdoor water use. Commercial car washes in the area will be asked to shut down temporarily and large industrial users of water will be requested to greatly reduce usage.
City pools and arenas were closed at noon Wednesday.
The city had already asked people to conserve water earlier this week as the heavy water runoff began to strain the limits of the water treatment system.