Frozen Water Service FAQs

I’ve heard that water pipes are freezing due to the weather and that I should run my water to keep the pipes from freezing. Is that true?

It depends. Most water service lines (pipes) going into the home are not going to freeze.
During the winter of 2013-2014, in which SPRWS experienced its historic maximum of frozen water service connections, approximately 750 pipes froze out of 94,000 accounts.  This is less than one percent of all homes in our service area.

In general, SPRWS recommends you only run your water if you have knowledge of or have experienced freezing incidents within private property in the past or if you have been notified by SPRWS to run your water.
However, predicting which water services will and won’t freeze is difficult.

If the water service line to your home has frozen in the recent past, and the frost reaches a depth of 5 feet or greater, either in your property or in the street, you will likely receive a letter from SPRWS requesting you run your water.  Historically, frost depth penetration of 5 feet or greater does not occur until late January or February.

If there is a chance of the water line freezing, why not just tell everyone to run their water?

Because the chance is less than one percent that it will happen. We want to conserve precious water resources and keep our prices low for our customers, most of whom will not be affected by a frozen water line this winter. Running water unnecessarily will cost our customers an additional $100 a month to prevent an event that is unlikely to occur.

How do I know if I should run my water to keep my pipes from freezing?

You should run your water if you have been contacted in a letter from SPRWS or your pipes have already frozen once this season.

If the pipe freezes in private property, all costs associated with thawing and or keeping the pipe from freezing are the responsibility of property owners.
You can always choose to run your water for your own peace of mind. However, you will be charged for the water used if you choose to run water on your own.

Run your cold water at a rate of one gallon every four minutes—about the stream width of a pencil.
Keep your drain clear of debris to prevent overflow or flooding.

This averages about 15 units of water a month. With combined water and sewer rates in Saint Paul, this could be $100 a month more in charges.
The water used will be charged to the property owner or tenant.

Keep in mind, out of 94,000 accounts, about 750 (or less than one percent) froze during the 2014 winter season.

The water at my faucet seems almost freezing. Should I be running my water?

Not necessarily. SPRWS draws and treats surface water from its chain of lakes and distributes water with a temperature of 36-39 degrees.
The ground around water pipes may not be frozen, but it is unlikely to help warm the water pipe or the water, so the water temperature is going to be cold.

My neighbor’s pipes froze and I don’t want that to happen to me. What can I do?

You can choose to run your water. If a homeowner or tenant chooses to run the water, they are responsible for those water and sewer charges.

Run your cold water at a rate of one gallon every four minutes—about the stream width of a pencil.
Keep your drain clear of debris to prevent overflow or flooding.

This averages about 15 units of water a month. With combined water and sewer rates in Saint Paul, this could be $100 a month more in charges.
The water used will be charged to the property owner or tenant.

How do you know if my pipes have frozen in the past?

We have records of frozen water services including 2014 and going back to 1994, another year where large scale freezing of water lines occurred.
We are using those records and reported frozen water lines (pipes) to create mailing lists.

If my water service line was frozen, what can I do to keep it from freezing again?

Once your line has been thawed out, it is essential to keep the water running continuously as instructed: one gallon every four minutes. Keep your drain clear of debris to prevent overflow or flooding.

Turning the water off, even for a few minutes, could cause the once frozen line to re-freeze. Remember this line already froze this year and is likely to re-freeze if you do not continue to run the water.

Should I be running hot or cold water?

Run the cold water from the lowest point in the house, usually a laundry room sink or tub. Keep your drain clear of debris to prevent overflow or flooding.

The idea is to keep the water flowing constantly at a rate of about one gallon every four minutes. Do not run your hot water.

I’ve been asked to run my water in a letter from SPRWS. How much water should I be running?

The letter specifies running water at a rate of one gallon every four minutes—about the stream width of a pencil. Keep your drain clear of debris to prevent overflow or flooding.

The weather is supposed to get above freezing. Can I stop running my water now?

No. If you are running your water as instructed in a letter from SPRWS, keep the water running until we contact you.
The frost will take much longer to leave the ground than a few days of above freezing temps. It could be as late as mid-May before the frost goes out.

I was not notified by SPRWS, but I chose to run my water. Can I get my sewer base adjusted?

Yes. Call us and tell when you ran your water so we can determine normal water use.
You will still be charged for the water and sewer you used during that time, but your ongoing sewer charges will be set for what you normally would have used.

I was not notified by SPRWS, but I chose to run my water. Will I get reimbursed for the water and sewer I used?
No.

If my water service line (pipe) does freeze, how long will it take for you to thaw it out?
It will take anywhere from 2-5 days for us to get to your service depending on demand.
Once onsite, it can take anywhere from 2 hours to upwards of 8 hours or more to thaw it out, depending on the size of the pipe.

Can SPRWS predict which water services will freeze?

No. SPRWS has record information of water pipes that froze in the past. Considering this history, SPRWS has determined these water pipes are likely to freeze. Accordingly, once frost depths reach 5+ feet these accounts may be notified and requested to run their water.

Unfortunately, each winter some water pipes that have no history of freezing in the past do freeze. While relatively few in number, frozen pipes occur at random all across the SPRWS service area.

Water service lines (pipes) are down into the ground 6.5 to 7.5 feet. During severe winters, SPRWS sees frost depths approaching the pipe depth. Pipes freeze in these conditions. Unfortunately, SPRWS cannot determine the frost depth surrounding each of 94,000 service lines. What we know is fewer than 750 pipes froze out of 94,000 accounts during 2014.

If I have a frozen water pipe and do not have water, whom do I call?
Contact SPRWS at 651-266-6868, our 24-hour emergency line.