Severe and uninterrupted cold can result in frozen water service pipes that prevent water from reaching the homes of impacted residents. The City assigns crews to respond to this issue and works to restore water service to affected properties as soon as possible.
What is a water service pipe?
A water service pipe runs underground, connecting a building’s plumbing to a City water main. Every property that receives water from one of the City of Ottawa’s municipal drinking water system has a water service pipe.
Which service pipes are vulnerable to freezing?
If you have received a letter from the City about frozen service pipes, or if your service pipe has frozen in the past, your pipes are vulnerable to freezing this winter.
What should property owners do if their service pipe is frozen?
Report a frozen service pipe by calling 3-1-1.
How can I help City crews thaw my service pipe?
- Find the shut-off valve outside your house and clear away the snow.
- Clear a path to the water shut-off valve inside your house and remove any furniture or breakables from the immediate area.
When can I expect my service to be thawed?
Wait times will vary based on the volume of requests we have at any given time. Please contact 3-1-1 for information on current wait times for temporary service installation or thawing.
Will the City call me in advance to schedule an appointment?
Yes. We will call you in advance, providing as much notice as possible. If you do not answer our call, we will leave a message and a direct contact number.
Will I be charged a fee for thawing a frozen service?
- If the frozen water service is on municipal property, there is no charge to the property owner for thawing.
- If the frozen water service is on private property, property owners will be charged the cost of work plus 15%. This fee applies each time the City must thaw a water service on private property.
- Private street/water main: Residents living on a private street (including, but not limited to a Condominium Corporation) will not have access to inspection and/or thawing services.
What are my options while I am waiting for my service to be thawed?
- The City will provide bottled water to affected residents. Request bottled water through 3-1-1.
- Use the shower facilities at any City recreation facility (no admission fee will be charged).
- Melt snow in your bathtub for non drinking water uses, such as flushing toilets.
- All residents should have an emergency water kit or supply available year-round as part of normal emergency preparedness.
Am I able to thaw the frozen service on my own?
If you are able to determine that the frozen section of water pipe is located inside your home, you can try the following methods:
- Open a cold water tap nearest to the frozen section so you will know when the pipe is thawed.
- Apply heat using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, or from an electric hair dryer.
- You may also use a portable heater with caution, especially around flammable materials.
- Ensure rooms or crawl spaces where pipes are located are adequately heated.
IMPORTANT: Never use an open flame to thaw a frozen water pipe. Always use caution when applying any heat source near insulation or other flammable materials.
Am I responsible for the cost of running my water?
If records show the service freezes on your property, you must cover the cost of running the water. You should have received a notice from the City informing you of this situation.
If records show the service freezes on the City's property and you have received a written notification from the City to run the water this winter, the City will cover the cost of running the service by adjusting your water bill in future months.
How can I prevent my service from freezing in the future?
In order to help prevent the water service on your property from freezing this winter, please consider the following alternatives:
- Ensure your indoor air temperature is kept above 8ºC in areas that contain water pipes and especially near the meter.
- Run a continuous steady stream of cold water (at least the width of a drinking straw) until the frost is out of the ground (end of April).
- Determine why your service is at risk of freezing. The service may not be installed to a proper depth.
- Wrap foam pipe insulation around pipes most likely to freeze (e.g. near outside walls, crawl spaces, attics).
- Seal air leaks in your home and garage, especially in areas where pipes are located.
- If you received a letter from the City about letting your water run, it means your property is at risk and you should follow those instructions.
- If you are away, have someone check your home regularly.
Temporary water service recipients (external hoses extending from a neighbour’s yard)
Am I responsible for paying for the water that I need to run while on temporary water service?
No. While being provided temporary services, both you and your neighbour will be charged based on your normal daily consumption until the temporary service is removed.
Is the water I am getting from the temporary hose at my neighbour’s place safe to drink?
How long will I have to remain on a temporary service?
We will keep you on a temporary service until your pipes thaw on their own. If there is a reason why you need to be removed from the temporary service earlier, please contact 3-1-1 to make that request.
Why has the City decided not to thaw those on temporary services?
It is less disruptive to you and less expensive to allow the services to thaw as the frost leaves the ground. During winters with deep frost, there is always a chance that services will re-freeze or thaw attempts will be unsuccessful.
How will I know when my water pipes have thawed?
As temperatures rise above zero for several days in a row and the ground starts thawing, you can leave a tap running in your home and turn off the tap where the hose is connected to your house. If your water continues to run, then your buried service is thawed. If the water doesn’t continue running, open the tap where the hose is connected and try again at a later time. To avoid refreezing, wait until there has been a long run of above zero temperatures day and night before you attempt this.
What do I do with the hose, etc., when my pipes have thawed?
Once the majority of services have thawed (late April/early May), the City will contact you and collect the temporary service equipment. You can disconnect your hose once your pipes have thawed and you have running water. If you need assistance disconnecting your hose, please contact 3-1-1 to make a request.
Do the temporary service hook-ups provide full service to my home?
Temporary service is provided via a hose that connects the external hose bib of one property to the external hose bib of an adjacent property. As a result, some reduction in pressure may be experienced if both customers use the water supply at the same time, but not to levels that would prevent normal use.
Temporary water service providers (neighbours)
Will I have to pay for the water I am giving to my neighbour?
You will not be charged for water being provided to your neighbour or your own water for the duration of the temporary service.
- If you have an automatic meter reader that reports meter readings automatically you don’t need to do anything further. The City will record your address and make the adjustment to your water bill in late spring/early summer.
- If you are on a meter that the City must read manually, please call in your meter reading immediately to the City’s automated number at 613-580-2727 and again at the end of the temporary service to ensure water consumption is deducted from your bill.
Will the external hose running cause my pipes to freeze?
- No - as long as you leave your water running and ensure your indoor air temperature is kept above 8oC in areas that contain water pipes. When your neighbour’s water service is thawed, turn off your external tap and drain your external water line like you did in the fall.
- If your water pipes or temporary hose freeze, call 3-1-1 and we will dispatch a crew to assist with thawing it.
How will I know when to stop my water from running?
When your neighbour or the City advises you that the service has been thawed. As the ground begins to thaw, check seasonal notifications to see if the run water advisory has ended.