Increased Demand to Water Distribution System Causing Discoloured Water
Image Tap Water – Uploaded by jcheng

A small number of Winnipeg customers may be experiencing discoloured tap water due to higher demands on the City’s water system.

Winnipeg’s water is tested each step of the way, from Shoal Lake to the tap, to ensure safe, high-quality drinking water. Although the discoloured water may not look good, Winnipeg’s testing program confirms that the water is safe and continues to comply with the Operating Licence issued by the Provincial Office of Drinking Water, Manitoba regulations and Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.

Discoloured water is possible any time there is an increase or change in the water flow in the distribution system, such as during water main breaks and repairs, and firefighting. The number of customers experiencing discoloured water increases in the summer due to the higher demands on the distribution system from peak water use. Summer water use is typically two to four times that of winter water use, due to warm weather and seasonal activities, such as:

  • residential use (e.g., refilling pools, watering gardens, flower beds and lawns);
  • fire hydrants authorized to be used for construction and landscaping; and
  • new water pipe installations.

Drinking discoloured water should not make you sick, however, it may not smell, taste, or look pleasant. Residents may want to refrain from using discoloured water for any purposes that require clean water, such as preparing food and beverages, medical and dental procedures, or laundry.

If customers have discoloured tap water, they should check if the water is clear:

  • Turn on a cold water tap (preferably a bath tub water tap without a strainer) and let the water run for a few minutes. This water can be collected and used to water plants.
  • Catch some water in a light-coloured cup. If the water isn’t clear, wait 30 minutes and try again. Discoloured water usually doesn’t last long. If the water still isn’t clear after two to three hours, contact 311, open 24 hours every day, by phone at 311 or by email at

The daily average of reports to 311 of discoloured water in August is 140, or less than one per cent of the total water accounts.