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I don't like Mondays -- without H2O

Rare power outage reduces city water supply to trickle

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/1/2010 (2745 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you can't function in the morning without a shower and a cup of coffee, then Monday must have been a bad day.

In a confluence of events officials are calling unprecedented, a power failure in St. Boniface left most of Winnipeg with only a trickle of water at about 7:30 a.m., when demands on the city's water-distribution system are near the highest in the weekday cycle.

Pedestrian at Goulet Street and Tache Avenue with traffic lights not functioning Monday morning.


Pedestrian at Goulet Street and Tache Avenue with traffic lights not functioning Monday morning.

The problem started with a power outage at Manitoba Hydro's Goulet Street station, which left about 1,600 homes in Old St. Boniface in the dark just before dawn.

Also affected were all three Winnipeg pumping stations that normally take treated water out of reservoirs and push them through distribution pipes to homes and businesses around the city.

Backup natural gas power at the McPhillips pumping station kicked in automatically during the power failure, but it took 10 minutes to get the MacLean station's backup power up and running manually, said Diane Sacher, the city's water services manager.

The Hurst pumping station, which serves the east side of the city, has no backup power source.

The net result was that water pressure dropped to roughly 30 per cent of what it should have been at the peak-use time of day. That meant no water at all for the homes and businesses furthest from the pumping stations for 20 to 30 minutes on Monday morning.

"This was a really, really unusual circumstance. We're actually proud of how reliable our water-supply system is, (as) this has never happened in memory, and I've been at the city for 26 years," Sacher said Monday afternoon.

"We had low pressure for 20 minutes. Everything was up and running within 30 minutes. I think it puts some perspective on what people in other parts of the world and our own country have to face every day."

If the power outage had taken place during the wee hours of the morning or the middle of the day, Winnipeggers might not have noticed, Sacher said.

The city's new water-treatment plant, which has its own generators on site, was not affected, she said. Neither was waste-water treatment at the three city sewage plants.

The city will review the water outage to see what, if any, changes must be made to water-pumping operations, Sacher said.

Manitoba Hydro, meanwhile, is investigating the cause of the Goulet power outage, spokeswoman Anita Mitchell said. Power was restored later in the morning.

During the water outage, callers to the city's 311 telephone service were greeted with busy signals because the volume of calls overwhelmed the system. That left some Winnipeggers temporarily unclear as to whether they were experiencing a local water issue or a larger problem.

City spokeswoman Michelle Bailey conceded the phone service was inundated, but said no calls were left in the queue by 8:15 a.m.

"In the old days, before 311, nobody would be there to respond before 8:30 a.m.," she said.


-- With files from Geoff Kirbyson


Flow was slow

About 350-million litres per day

The normal volume of water flowing through Winnipeg distribution pipes on a weekday morning.


Roughly 100-million litres per day

The water volume on Monday morning, shortly after 7:30 p.m.


20-30 minutes

Water outage for some Winnipeg residences and businesses.



Quantity of shampoo unused, coffee undrunk -- and extra deodorant applied -- as a result of the water outage.


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