Eleven days without running water

Justin Crann
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Justine Protz's family struggled during city service shortfall

For almost two weeks Justine Protz's family was washing their dishes and refilling their toilet with melted snow.

Justine Protz and her family managed to get by with two five-gallon pails (pictured) and a Culligan jug of potable water supplied by the city in lieu of running water for 11 days, but said it was a massive inconvenience that has made her and her husband reconsider living in Moose Jaw.

Protz and her family were left without running water on March 2 after their home's service lines froze over. City staff tried to find a solution, but after several attempts, started delivering two pails and a Culligan jug of potable water to her home daily and told her to be patient.

Protz described the lack of running water that her family endured for 11 days as "unacceptable."

"I think going a week alone was unacceptable, and I've been told some people have been going without water for a month," she said. "We had a doctor at the hospital and he's been without water since Sunday. He has gone to a hotel with his three children because nothing was offered to him.

"He says, 'Is this Canada?'"

Protz said the lack of water is "a risk to peoples' health," particularly because there's no way to refill the city-provided buckets on weekends, leaving families to purchase more water from a store or go without.

She said she had taken that concern to city employees and was told to scale back her family's use of the water they are allotted.

"They told us we just have to conserve … We conserve already. We've been living off of two five-gallon buckets of water and a Culligan jug," she said.

The water shortage has caused a dramatic change in lifestyle for Protz and her family.

"When we get up in the morning we use our Culligan water to brush our teeth — a few ounces of it. My husband boils water on the stove so we can wash our hands and face. And we've been melting snow so we have extra water to flush our toilets," she explained.

"I fill my water bottle and make my coffee at work. We sponge bath — I sponge bath my daughter and she screams the entire time because it's cold. We get more snow and melt that to wash dishes — we get the strainer and some paper towel and filter it to get the extra dirt out and then boil that.

"My house is a disaster … it's a nightmare."

Protz said she feels her family is "fairly resourceful" and, because they're young, more capable of handling the lack of water her family was dealing with. 

If the problem befell a senior or someone less capable or resourceful, she said it would be worse.

The city only just restored service for Protz on Friday, running a service hose from a neighbour's outdoor tap to her home — a procedure Duane Grado, director of public works, said has been common for homes where service lines cannot be thawed out.

"There are some service lines we have tried to thaw out by injecting boiling water and that had little success," he explained. "We've tried to keep up, but we've never seen (frozen lines) like this. We have an inventory of 30 or 40 houses without running water.

"This is an extreme year and lines that weren't as vulnerable in the past are now," added Grado.

He said neighbours who allow those with frozen service lines to use their outdoor taps would not be charged for the extra use, but rather billed based on a reading of their water metres before the service hose is installed.

"We really hope the residents don't think we're going to wait until May. We're going to exhaust every measure we can," added Grado.

For her part, however, Protz said she still wants the home's water restored quickly and that her family has considered relocating because of "the way this city handles many problems."

"Our roots aren't set here," said Protz. "We've already talked about what our future is and if we are going to stay here … we've lived in smaller towns before and had no problems like this, so definitely, we've talked about getting out of Moose Jaw."

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter or like him on Facebook.

Geographic location: Canada, Moose Jaw

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Recent comments

  • david k
    March 16, 2014 - 02:50

    not a surprise in this city. So far behind every other city in the way its run . Slogan should be surprisingly unexpectedly cheap. The people and council are so worried about taxes that the city is crumbling around them. the tax increase should have been 5 or 6 % and if spent properly maybe the city could catch up with repairs. Cheap gets you poor snow removal lousy roads sidewalks and a sewer system that leaves people in this predicament .