Water main cleaning program
Every summer, we flush water mains as part of our annual water main cleaning program. The 2019 water main cleaning program is scheduled to begin on May 15, 2019.
To see if we will be flushing the water mains on your street in the next few days, visit
Water main flushing crews work seven days a week (weekends included), from 8 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m.
Frequently asked questions
We flush water mains every year. Water Services crews work every day of the year except Christmas Day, from 8 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m.
Water mains are underground pipes that carry water from the pumping stations to your street.
Flushing the mains help preserve the quality of water as it passes from our drinking water treatment plant to your taps.
Beginning in 2014, we fast tracked the schedule of the Water Main Cleaning Program to flush all 2,637 kilometres in a three-year program, compared to the routine program of six years. This is one of the measures we are taking to reduce discoloured water.
We force water through the water mains at a high speed and discharge it through hydrants into sewers. The fast moving water scours and cleans the mains. We leave the hydrants open until the water runs clear.
There are about 2,637 kilometres of water mains in Winnipeg. In 2019, we will flush about 20 percent of the water mains in Winnipeg.
Before and During the Flushing
To keep your children safe, keep them away from the work area at all times.
To see if your street is scheduled for water main flushing in the next few days, visit MyUtilityInfo.
If you live in a house
We will deliver an notice to your home up to four days before we flush the water main on your street.
If you live in an apartment
We will deliver a notice to your property manager/landlord within four days in advance, to let them know when the work will begin and how long it will take. We will leave a package of information, including a fact sheet on the program to hand out to tenants, and a notice to post in the building.
If you operate a business
We will deliver a notice within four days in advance to let you know when the work will begin and how long it will take. We will leave a package of information, including a fact sheet on the program.
It takes about 30 minutes to one hour to flush the water main on each street.
Water main flushing can often be completed without causing discoloured.
On occasion, discoloured water can happen while we flush the water main on your street or a street nearby.
If you experience discoloured water, please do the following:
- Stop using your water in order to prevent sediment from entering the pipes in your home.
- Wait a few minutes.
- Turn on the cold water tap and let the water run for a few minutes.
- Then, collect some water in a light-coloured cup or container. If water is clear, you can use your water.
- If it is not clear, wait 30 minutes, check the water again. If your water is still discoloured after two to three hours, call 311.
- Please do not use any hot water or filtered taps before you are sure your water is clear.
After the Flushing
Immediately after flushing, your water may be discoloured. Water is sometimes discoloured after water main flushing, but this should not last long. Do not use discoloured water for any purposes that require clean water, such as preparing food and beverages, medical and dental procedures, or laundry. Discoloured water may contain metals (e.g. manganese) that can have health effects if consumed in large amounts or over an extended period of time. In addition, discoloured water does not taste, smell or look pleasant, and it can stain clothes.
- Turn on a cold water tap and let the water run for a few minutes. Do not choose a tap that has a water filter connected to it, or the sediment may clog your filter. Do not use a hot water tap because it could draw sediment into your hot water tank.
- Catch some water in a light-coloured cup or container to see if it is clear. You can use your water if it is clear.
- If the water isn't clear, turn off the tap, wait 30 minutes and try again. If your water is still discoloured after two to three hours, phone 311
Apartment property managers, landlords and business operators
Before you turn your water back on to the building, we recommend that you:
- Turn on a cold water tap near the water shut-off valve (e.g., a tap in the mop sink in the maintenance room) and let the water run for a few minutes.
- Catch some water in a light-coloured cup or container to see if it is clear.
- Restore water to the rest of the building if the water is clear.
Your water may also be cloudy or smell of chlorine.
Water is cloudy when air gets in it and makes tiny bubbles. These bubbles are harmless and will disappear if you let the water sit for a few minutes.
We add enough chlorine to the water to keep it safe. You can easily get rid of the chlorine taste and smell by filling a container with water and keeping it in the fridge for drinking – much of the chlorine will leave the water overnight.
Drinking discoloured water should not make you sick, however, it may not smell, taste, or look pleasant. Health officials believe that drinking small amounts of discoloured water should not pose a health threat if accidentally consumed.
Monitoring and Flushing Techniques
Yes, our laboratory staff will randomly collect samples and test water quality from hydrants during the cleaning program.
No. We are using a unidirectional flushing technique, which uses 40 per cent less water than conventional flushing.
During unidirectional flushing, water system valves are operated to create one-way flow to the water main to be cleaned. A hydrant connected to the main is then opened to remove the built-up sediment. This type of flushing increases the speed of the water flow in the main to about two metres or six feet per second (it is normally less than .3 metres or 1 foot per second). This high speed produces a scouring action in the mains, removing sediment deposits. The flushing starts at a clean water source (e.g., the water pumping stations) and moves towards the outer limits of the city. This ensures that clean water is always used to flush the mains.
In conventional flushing, the water used to flush the main does not always begin at the clean water source (the water pumping station), and the speed of the water is much lower than during unidirectional flushing. As a result, more water is required to thoroughly clean the water mains.
Yes. In addition to removing more sediment and using less water than conventional flushing, unidirectional flushing tests and exercises the water system valves and hydrants.
We will drain the water into the street catch basins, which typically flow to the land drainage system, and into the river. We will be using an environmentally friendly product (ascorbic acid) to remove the chlorine from the water before it drains to the catch basins. We will also collect and test samples to determine the quality of the water we drain to the catch basins.
Yes, many cities have a similar water main cleaning program that includes water main flushing. This is considered the best way to improve water quality and increase the reliability of the water distribution system.