Water supply: How to avoid frozen pipes and what does brown water mean?


Communities across Scotland have had their water supply unexpectedly lost in the last few days amid disruption caused by snow and ice.

Scottish Water says they have dealt with double the number of burst water mains across the country compared with normal levels at this time of year.

Scots have been battered with snow and temperatures as low as -17C – with some losing water entirely.

In one Glasgow case, around 29,000 properties in the city’s East End lost their water supply on Wednesday due to a burst main, and a team of divers worked in the freezing waters of a reservoir in Sutherland after water treatment works failed due to ice on Tuesday.

Experts are now urging Scots to ensure their water pipes are protected during the winter to prevent burst pipes.

Preventing a burst pipe


Scottish Water says that, when temperatures are low, you should leave your heating on a low setting.

If you can’t leave it on all day, set it to come on several times throughout the day using the timer function.


An important factor to consider when avoiding burst pipes are to ensure pipes and water tanks are properly insulated.

Workers say that there should be no gaps at bends, valves or fittings, and that you should use suitable insulation material.

The team have created an easy-to-use pipe insulation tool to help.

Check for drips

Experts say that dripping water and cold draughts both increase the risk of pipes freezing over, and so leaks and drips should be repaired as soon as they are discovered.

What happens if your pipes freeze?

If your pipes have frozen, you should turn off the stop valve immediately and open cold taps to drain the system

You should never turn on the hot taps – this may cause a hot water cylinder to collapse.

How do you solve a burst pipe?

Scottish Water says that if a pipe bursts, you should locate the stop valve which controls the water supply entering your home, and switch it off.

The most common locations for this stop valve are:

Under a sink, either in a kitchen or utility room

In a garage

Close to the hot water system

After closing this, switch off your immersion heater and central heating boiler and let any solid fuel fires die down.

You should then open all hot and cold taps to drain them of any remaining water. In most cases, it’s then time to call a licensed plumber.

More advice on how to deal with frozen or burst pipes is available via Scottish Water.


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