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Drinking water advisories and planned work

Frozen water service pipes

Severe and uninterrupted cold can result in a frozen water service pipe that prevents water from reaching your internal plumbing. The City will issue a seasonal run water advisory to vulnerable properties when frost reaches the appropriate depth. If your water service pipe freezes, City crews work 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 systems has a water service pipe.

If you have received a letter from the City advising you to run your water, or if your service pipe has frozen in the past, your pipes are vulnerable to freezing this winter.

To report a frozen service pipe, call 3-1-1.

City response to a frozen water service pipe

To help City crews thaw your frozen water 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.

The City 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.

Wait times will vary based on the volume of requests at any given time. Please contact 3-1-1 for information on current wait times for temporary service installation or thawing.

Fees for thawing a frozen water service pipe

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.

Thawing your water service pipe manually

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.
  • 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.

Options for water while pipes are frozen

  • The City will provide bottled water to affected residents. Request bottled water through 3-1-1.
  • Use the shower facilities will be permitted at any City recreation facility (no admission fee will be charged).
  • Melt snow in your bathtub for non-potable use, such as flushing toilets.

All residents should have an emergency water kit or supply available year-round as part of normal emergency preparedness.

Preventing a frozen water service pipe

In order to help prevent the water service pipe 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 or 1/4" or 5 cm, until the frost is out of the ground (end of April).
    • If you received a letter from the City about letting your water run, it means your property is at risk and you should follow these instructions.
  • 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.

Cost of running water during an advisory

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 your water this winter, the City will cover the cost of running the service by adjusting your water bill in future months.

Temporary water service lines

If your water service pipe freezes, the City may install a temporary water service line – an external hose extending to your property from a neighbour’s yard. In some cases, it is less disruptive and expensive to allow a water service pipe 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.

While being provided with a temporary service line, both you and your neighbour will be charged based on your normal daily consumption until the temporary service is removed.

While on a temporary service line, you may experience some reduction in pressure if both you and your neighbour use water at the same time, but not to levels that would prevent normal use.

Note: Water provided from the temporary service line is safe to drink.

The City will keep you on a temporary service line until your water service pipe thaws on its own. If you need to be removed from the temporary service line earlier, please contact 3-1-1 to create a service request.

Determining if your water service pipe has thawed

As temperatures rise above zero for several consecutive days and the ground begins to thaw, leave a tap running in your home and turn off the tap where the temporary service line is connected to your home. If your water continues to run, your water service pipe has thawed. If the water does not continue running, open the tap where the temporary service line is connected and try again later. To avoid re-freezing, wait until there has been a long period of above-zero temperatures (day and night) before you attempt this.

Returning the hose and equipment when the service pipe has thawed

Once the majority of water service pipes have thawed (typically in late April or 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.

Temporary water service providers

If you provide water through a temporary service line for a frozen service pipe, both you and your neighbour will be charged based on your normal daily consumption until the temporary service is removed.

If your meter readings are reported automatically to the City, you do not need to take any further action. The City will record your address and make any necessary 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 to the City’s automated number at 613-580-2727 when the temporary service line is installed and again at the end of the temporary service connection to ensure your water consumption is adjusted on your bill.

Will the external hose running cause my pipes to freeze?

No. You pipes will not freeze if you leave your water running and ensure your indoor air temperature is above 8oC in areas that contain water pipes. When your neighbour’s water service has thawed, turn off your external tap and drain your external water line (as you would in the fall).

If your water pipes or temporary service line freeze, call 3-1-1.

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, you can stop running your water. As the ground begins to thaw, return to ottawa.ca to determine if the run water advisory has ended.

Frozen services run water advisory

Run water advisory in effect for notified properties.

Fire hydrant maintenance and testing

The City of Ottawa maintains and tests more than 22,000 fire hydrants to ensure Ottawa Fire Services is equipped in the event of an emergency.

Learn More

Warning: Door-to-door sales of water filters and softeners

The City of Ottawa warns residents to be aware of door-to-door salespeople making false claims about the quality of Ottawa’s drinking water. These individuals have been known to approach residents to sell water filtration or treatment systems that are not needed, and provide incorrect information about drinking water quality.

As of March 1, 2018, Ontario has banned unsolicited, door-to-door sales of water purifiers, filters, treatment devices and other household appliances to better protect consumers from aggressive and misleading contracting at home. Learn more about the new rules.

Ottawa’s drinking water consistently meets all Federal and Provincial standards and has received a rating of 100% by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) for several years. The City of Ottawa publishes an extensive drinking water quality sampling and testing program, and City staff will respond promptly to any concerns or inquiries about drinking water quality.

Residents are reminded that:

  • City employees do not contact residents to sell products or services.
  • Except in emergency situations, home access is scheduled in advance.
  • City employees carry identification at all times. You have the right to ask for ID.
  • City employees always travel in City of Ottawa logo-identified vehicles.
  • Should you have concerns or wish to report suspicious visits or calls, please contact 3-1-1.

City employees carry identification at all times.

What you should know during a boil water advisory

How do I use water when a boil water advisory has been issued?

Water should be brought to a rolling boil and boiled for one minute before use.

Use tap water for:

  • Washing clothes (unless the water is cloudy)
  • Taking showers(adults and older children)
  • Shaving
  • Flushing toilets

Use boiled water for:

  • Drinking
  • Brushing teeth
  • Hand washing
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Preparing food and baby formula
  • Making ice
  • Coffee makers
  • Sponge bathing babies and young children (after cooling)
  • Giving water to pets

Do not use:

  • Kitchen and other household water filters
  • Ice makers and soda dispensers with a line to the water supply
  • Children’s water play such as wading pools and water tables

How else can I disinfect my hands?

You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, containing more than 60% alcohol. Pre-moistened towelettes used for cleaning babies during a diaper change are not effective for disinfecting hands.

How do I wash dishes?

  1. Wash and rinse the dishes as you normally would using hot water or your dishwasher
  2. In a separate basin, add 5 ml (1 tsp) of unscented household liquid bleach for each 4.5 l (5 quart) of warm water
  3. Soak the rinsed dishes in the bleached water for at least one minute
  4. Let the dishes air dry completely.

How do I disinfect countertops and utensils in contact with raw meat?

These surfaces should be washed with soap and hot water first and then sanitized with a bleach solution. Mix 60 ml (1/4 cup) to 6 l (1½ gallons) water. Soak items for 1 minute and let dishes air dry.

What if someone is, or becomes ill, or has special needs?

For more information call Ottawa Public Health (613-580-2424 ext. 28020) to speak with a nurse or contact your doctor and mention the boil water advisory.

What should I do after the boil water advisory is lifted?

  • Run cold water faucets for one minute before using the water.
  • Run drinking fountains for one minute before using the water.
  • Flush all garden hoses by running cold water through them for five minutes.
  • Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.
  • Drain and refill hot water heaters set below 45°Celsius (normal setting is 60°Celsius)

For more information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse, call 613-580-6744.

Health Canada - Boil Water Advisories and Boil Water Orders