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Watermain Breaks FAQs


Water Main Breaks

Water mains are the underground water pipes carrying water from the water treatment plant to the pumping stations and water storage tanks.   At times water mains can leak or break.   When a water main leaks or breaks, water can escape.  The constant pressure in the water main causes the escaping water to flow to the surface until the break is found and that section of pipe is closed and then repaired.

What causes water main breaks?

Water main breaks can happen at any time of the year for various reasons.

Ground temperature and water temperature are major factors with water main breaks. The sudden and severe temperature changes can cause water main breaks as the ground contracts and expands and puts pressure on the water pipes. Prolonged periods of below zero temperatures can cause the soil to freeze quite deeply into the ground.  During winter, frost depths can reach up to 3 metres or 10 feet deep.  This freezing can cause expansion and contraction that creates force on the water main.   During summer, hot dry or very wet conditions can cause the ground to expand and swell also putting pressure on underground pipes.

Change in pressure can cause water main breaks.  This usually occurs at weak points in the water pipe.  Demand on the whole system can also cause changes in pressure, such as high water usage on a hot summer day, which can contribute to a break.

As water pipes reach the end of their life cycle, and with the natural wear and tear, the likelihood of a break or leak increases.

The material that water pipes are made of can corrode or crumble the outside of the pipe in certain soil conditions.   Soil conditions can vary within a stretch of water pipe, creating leaks or breaks at any point.

How is a water main fixed?

When a trouble call is received, an operator is dispatched to determine the location, impact and severity of the break.  First, nearby water valves are closed to control the water main flow.  Depending on the type of leak, this will either reduce the flow to the affected water main or shut it off completely.

Once the general repair location has been identified and the water main is shut off, special equipment is used to find the precise location of the leak.  Next, construction crews are dispatched to begin water main repairs by excavating the ground exposing the pipes.

Prior to any excavation, crews must identify the location of all utilities to ensure the repair can be done without damaging other utilities or endangering the City crews, or the public.

The water main repair is completed and the pipes are then flushed.  Finally, the water quality is tested to ensure it is safe for consumption before water service is fully restored. This process could take up to 7 working days.  Whenever there is a loss of pressure in the water main a boil water advisory is issued to the affected location until the water has been tested to approval given by the Health Unit to discontinue the boil water advisory.

Next the roadway, lane, sidewalk or lawn will be repaired to match the existing surfaces and landscapes.  Depending on the season, weather and availability of materials and equipment, these repairs may take some time to complete.

How long does it take to repair a water main?

Repair time can vary depending on the location of the leak, condition of the soil, condition of the pipe, complication of the break, availability of repair materials, and difficulty and location of the excavation.  It is difficult to estimate when water service will be restored, however the City of Kenora will make every effort to minimize the length of time customers are out of water.

Why has no one come to fix the water main yet?

At any time there could be a number of emergency water service repairs within the City of Kenora.  Projects are prioritized based on risk of property damage, impact to critical facilities (such as schools and hospitals), or the number of residents without water.

The City of Kenora Water & Sewer department understands that water service interruptions are a significant inconvenience and will always make the effort to resume this service as soon as possible.

Will I be notified of a water service interruption?

The City of Kenora will attempt to notify all affected customers either by a notice in the local newspaper and radio, on the City website or by mail.    Water main breaks are unpredictable.  If you have not received a notice, and there is an interruption in water service, it may be that a quick response was needed to prevent a large leak from causing property damage or the leak was found early morning or late evening.

Why was my water turned off?

Water service can be turned off for various reasons one of them being repairs from water main breaks.

How can I prepare when my water is turned off?

Before the water service interruption, you can prepare by storing water in the fridge for drinking, storing water in the bathtub, clean pails, sinks, jugs or any clean container that is appropriate to hold water.

What if I see a water main break?

If you see as sinkhole or surface water running on the street, contact the City of Kenora Water & Sewer Department at 807-467-2097 during regular business hours or 807-467-2080 after hours and a water crew will be dispatched to evaluate the situation for repair.  Please give an accurate description of the location of the break.

There is a change in water pressure, what should I do?

Contact the City of Kenora Water & Sewer Department at 807-467-2097 during regular business hours or 807-467-2080 after hours to report the pressure change.

Can I flush my toilet without water service?

You may continue to use the washroom during water service interruptions by pouring stored water into your toilet bowl to empty its contents.

Is my water safe to drink?

Before water service is restored, the Water & Sewer Department will flush the water lines and test water quality to ensure it is safe to drink.  Water may be discoloured after a water main break and repair.  To flush your home water system, run a cold water tap until water is not discoloured.  Also wash tap aerators and screens in hot soapy water, then disinfect for ten minutes in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.  Disinfect any water filters to the manufacturer’s recommendations.  For further information about water treatment, contact the Northwestern Health Unit at 807-468-3147 or online at

My lawn was damaged by the repair. Will the City fix my lawn?

If the damage is due to a water main break, the City of Kenora will repair any damage to your lawn with either replacement sod or grass seed.  This can be depending on the weather and ground conditions, availability of equipment and materials. Maintenance of the replacement lawn is your responsibility after the repair is completed.

The water service line on my property needs repair. Who is responsible?

Home owners are responsible for their service line from the curb stop location into their home.  Curb stops are not always located on the property line between the road allowance and the homeowner.

What happens when there is a sewer main break?

Similar to water mains, sewer pipes can break and require repair.  These types of repairs do not impact your drinking water.  They do impact sanitary service like toilets and drains in your home.  During a repair, please do not flush toilets, shower or use a dishwasher and clothes washer, or allow water to enter the drains.  This may cause sewer water to back up into your home.  Cover sinks and drains with stopper or rag to slow or stop the back up of water.

For more information about City of Kenora water rules and regulations, see By-law 168-2004.