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311

Common water problems

Here are some common water supply problems that you may experience, and ways of solving them:

No water

No water at the tap can be caused by a variety of factors including:

  • 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)

For more information, contact 311, and we may be able to help you determine the cause of no water.

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Frozen pipes

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.

Thawing frozen pipes

You can try to thaw the pipe yourself, call a plumber, or ask us to do it.

Do it yourself

  1. 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)
  2. 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.

Warning

  • 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.

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Poor pressure

The City's water pressure can vary slightly from area to area and during peak demand times, but on average the City pressure is 65 pounds per square inch.

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

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Leaking service pipes

Things you should know about water 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: Service repair clamps photo
  • 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

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Last updated: August 19, 2014

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