One city’s battle with frozen pipes

In February of 2015, Ontario got hit with a record cold snap. Water services staff at the city of Guelph were over run by calls from people who had no water …pipes were freezing all over the city. With water main breaks, and an increasing volume of customer calls, staff were working around the clock.

An emergency operations center kicked in and the city went to work. By seasons end , and costing $545,000 in direct freeze expenses..and $80,000  in lost revenue from those who were instructed to run their water.

Staff at Guelph Water Services reviewed what was done and how the situation was handled. Some 50 recommendations  came of the review and a policy developed. Policies were approved by the City of Guelph in November 2015, including programs to prevent frozen pipes, and support those with frozen pipes. Education and outreach programs were enacted, with a more formal preventative program aimed at homes and businesses with a history of freezing.


Guelph relies on a finite source of ground water for it’s water supply. The residents cannot all run the water or there might be a shortage of water for everyday use or putting out fires. The program has had great success with those enrolled, and the numbers have continued to grow.

One change that was identified through working the program is that those  being provided with a temporary water source ( like a neighbors garden hose), will most likely be able to use that water for potable and non potable needs. With testing, most temporary water lines will provide water for all requirements . Those with water that does not pass the standards for potability, will be giving vouchers for bottled water.

Formal cost recovery programs are also in place. For instance, those running water as part of the prevention program and customers on temporary lines have some consideration. Protocols are in place that are consistent with industry practice and reinforces the value of water as a resource, and of the service provided.



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