Water supply concerns
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- No water
- Frozen pipes
- Poor pressure
- Check for leaks
- Water turn off
- Water turn on
- Contractor request for water main turn off/on
- Hose lines
- Temporary water supply tanks
- Valve boxes
- Service boxes
- More information
- Old galvanized piping in house
- Plugged water softeners
- Broken faucets
- Plugged aeration screens on faucets
- Plugged water meter
- Water service or water main leaks
- Water turned off by the Water and Waste Department for cancellation or nonpayment of bill
- Possible frozen service (during winter)
Preventing frozen pipes
Steps to take before winter
- Turn off the water to outside taps from inside your house. Leave outside taps slightly open to allow any remaining water to expand when freezing. Remove and drain hoses.
- Insulate areas of your home containing water pipes, including crawl spaces, garages and attics.
- Insulate water pipes (both hot and cold) near the exterior walls, especially those facing north. Many home improvement stores carry foam sleeves with a lengthwise slit, or bands of insulation that wrap around the pipes.
- Weather-seal your windows.
- Check for air leaks around electrical outlets, dryer vents and pipes. Seal these leaks with caulking or insulation to keep cold air away from your pipes.
- Know where your master water valve is (usually near your water meter).
When winter arrives
- Heat areas of your home containing water pipes so that warm air will prevent them from freezing.
- Set the thermostat no lower than 12°C (55°F) at night and when you are away.
- If you plan to be away, have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is on and no problems have occurred.
- Keep the garage door closed if there are water pipes inside.
- Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near outside walls.
- If your water pipe has frozen in the past, you may wish to leave one of your cold water taps running at a trickle all the time. We estimate that leaving a tap running at a trickle for three months will add $500 to your utility bill (with a flow no greater than the thickness of a drinking straw).
- If a pipe freezes and bursts, turn off the master valve immediately.
Step one – Find the frozen pipe.
- Often the frozen area of the pipe will be frosted or have ice on it. If the pipe is frozen solid, it may have a slight bulge or a crack.
- If you have a poorly insulated crawlspace, the frozen pipe may be in this area.
- If none of the taps works, the problem may be:
- at the water meter or where your water service enters your home through the foundation, or
- in the pipe between the water main and the meter (if this is the case, call us)
Step two – Thaw the pipe.
- Move quickly – thaw frozen pipes as soon as possible.
- Open the tap. Start by warming the pipe as close to the tap as possible, working toward the coldest section of the pipe. Wrap warm (not hot or boiling) towels or cloths around the pipe. The key to safely thawing frozen pipes is to apply slow, even heat.
- Keep the towels warm and keep the water tap turned on until full water pressure is restored.
- If the pipe leaks when it is thawed, turn off the master water valve and contact a licensed plumber to repair the leak.
- Do not use a propane heater or open flame device (e.g., blow torch, candle, butane lighter) to thaw the pipe.
- Do not use space heaters, heat guns, hair dryers, heating pads or any other electrical appliances to thaw frozen pipes. Leaking water could cause an electrical shock.
To address the high number of frozen services, we are running our thawing service at least until 10 p.m. Most days, we are running our thawing machine 24 hours every day and night of the week. Some customers will be getting a call in the evening, and asked if they would be willing to be thawed overnight.
If you have no water due to a frozen water pipe, you can have free access to shower facilities at all 12 indoor pool locations. For information on the pools and locations, visit Access to Aquatic & Recreation Facilities for Shower Use
- If the pipe is frozen between the water main and the property line, we will thaw the pipe at no cost.
- If the pipe is frozen between the property line and your home, we can thaw the pipe at your expense.
We can thaw the frozen pipe by:
- passing an electrical current through the frozen section of pipe
- forcing hot water into the frozen pipe through a small plastic tube
The specialized electrical equipment that we use to thaw frozen water pipes:
- is CSA approved,
- has a patented design that uses a computer system to monitor the current and automatically shuts off if there is any dangerous current loss into the house.
If we can't thaw your pipe right away, we can install a hose line at no cost, as long as another supply source is available.
If the water comes from another building, we take a meter reading before installing the hose and again when we remove it. We then adjust the supplier's account based on the amount of water used.
For more information, contact 311.
Poor water pressure can be caused by a number of internal and external factors including:
- old galvanized piping in house
- plugged water softeners
- faulty taps
- plugged aeration screen
- plugged water meter
- water pipe or water main leaks
- Not all leaks are the City's responsibility to repair. These water leaks include:
- a leak in your pipe
- a leak on a fire sprinkler system
- a leak on a combined fire and domestic service (fire protection and potable supply)
- Not all water discharges are leaks. What appears to be a leak may actually be:
- a sump pump discharging
- a swimming pool being pumped
- a lawn sprinkler system
- a backyard skating rink being flooded
- Our crews determine the cause of a leak before corrective measures begin.
- Before any water main break repairs or other excavation work can begin, all underground utilities (MTS, Hydro etc.) must, by law, be contacted.
- Scheduling can sometimes take hours or days to coordinate and complete.
- When we have been cleared to dig, a leak detection crew is dispatched to pin-point the leak.
- This process minimizes the size of the excavation and maximizes the efficiency of the excavation crew.
- When there is a leak on a City pipe, barricades are placed at the location to be excavated.
- Water under pressure (especially in frozen soil or under concrete roads) follows the path of least resistance. This means a leak on a pipe may not be located where the water appears on the surface.
- Things you should know about leaks on residential property
- If you can't shut off the water to your home because there is a leak before the shut-off valve by the meter or because the shut-off valve is not working, we will shut off the water. There is no charge for this service.
- Your shut-off valve is usually located in the basement of your home near an outside wall.
- The inlet side of the valve is connected to the water supply.
- The outlet side of the valve is connected to the water meter.
- If we are required to turn off the water because the shut-off valve by the meter is broken, it must be repaired or replaced before the water is turned back on. It is your responsibility to repair or replace it.
- We will turn off the water at no charge.
- Commercial property owners are responsible for repairing, renewing, supporting or removing all fire service piping and valves.
- When repairs inside the property have been completed, we will turn on the water to the property.
- There is no charge to turn on water after repairs.
- To prevent damage from a tap that may have been left open, someone must be home before the water service is turned back on.
- If we were required to turn off the water because the shut-off valve by the meter was broken, you must repair or replace the valve before the water is turned back on.
- Our staff may exchange your water meter if it is due for replacement when they come to turn on the water.
- If a commercial property is without water and requires an uninterrupted supply of water, a temporary hose line can be installed at the customer's expense.
- This solution is appropriate when there is a prolonged outage and there is a suitable and readily available alternate supply to connect to.
- The cost to provide this service includes labour, material and equipment.
- The charges for this service vary due to the complexity of the installation and the length of time the temporary service is required.
- During winter, a continuous flow of water is required to prevent a hose line from freezing.
Temporary water supply tanks
Temporary water supply tanks hold 250 gallons of potable drinking water. Depending on availability, water tanks are available for rent.
To get water from the tank:
- The nozzle and control handle are located near the front of the water tank. The door has a picture of a water tap on it.
- You must push down on the handle to get water.
- Water tanks are not pressurized – they are gravity flow.
When a temporary water supply tank - supplied due to a water main break - is empty, contact 311 and we will refill it.
When a temporary water supply tank is frozen, contact 311 and we will thaw it.
Our water distribution system consists of a vast network of interconnected underground pipes. Sometimes pipes in the system must be isolated so that a particular section of pipe does not receive water for a period of time. We do this by shutting off the water at several points in the system.
- Valves are used to isolate pipes for a variety of reasons, including the repair or renewal of water mains, services, valves and hydrants.
- We operate approximately 28,243 valves.
- Valves are typically buried seven to nine feet below ground, which is below the frost line in winter. Some valves are shallower or deeper, depending on geographic location.
- Valves are accessed through a valve box.
- A valve box consists of a top and bottom telescopic section:
- the top section slides over the bottom, allowing height adjustment
- the top section incorporates a hinge-pinned or drop-in style of lid
- We repair or adjust valve boxes, except for those on:
- private property
- fire sprinkler lines
- Homeowners should contact 311 to report valve boxes that are damaged or that need adjustment, but should not make repairs themselves because incorrect repair methods can cause a leak or further damage.
- Most buildings that provide City drinking water have a shut-off valve at or near the property line.
- Shut-off valves are buried approximately seven to nine feet deep in the ground, which is below the frost line in winter.
- Shut-off valves are accessed by a hollow tube called a service box.
- Service boxes are usually made of plastic, steel or cast iron.
- Service boxes are located at ground level and are telescopic to allow for height adjustment.
- Soil movement, snow clearing equipment and construction cause most damage to service boxes.
- We are responsible for repairs to service boxes and generally handle these repairs on a seasonal basis before or after the ground freezes.
- Homeowners should contact 311 to report service boxes that are damaged or that need adjustment, but should not make repairs themselves because incorrect repair methods can cause a leak or further damage.
Who should you call for more information?
Last updated: March 6, 2014