A combination of waterline freezes and water-main breaks is severely testing the city's capabilities.
"Everybody right now understands the situation," Mayor Sam Katz told reporters Monday. "Is it challenging? Yes, which is why we owe a debt of gratitude to all civil servants who are working so hard in these trying times."
The number of water-main breaks since December is up 62 per cent compared with a five-year average for that same time period: 217 water-main breaks this season compared with 134 in the same three winter months in a five-year average.
The number of breaks this March is slightly higher than last year. From March 1 to 8, the city has experienced 23 water-main breaks; last year during the same period, there were 21 breaks.
Katz said various civic departments are pulling together to deal with the situation: Firefighters are delivering jugs of water and fire department support staff blitzed several at-risk neighbourhoods over the weekend and hand-delivered 3,900 notices.
"We've had staff coming from other departments to help out. This is nothing new," Katz said. "It is challenging, but we're making it work."
To add to the city's woes, pothole season has arrived.
CAA Manitoba issued a news release Monday stating it expects 2014 to be the worst ever for potholes and demanded the city outline how it was going to deal with the situation.
Katz said he couldn't predict how bad the pothole problem will become, adding the city will continue its policy of applying temporary patches on streets across Winnipeg and going back later for permanent repairs.
"At this point in time, they can only do what we call a temporary fix," Katz said, adding the city currently has three or four crews filling potholes.