Around 400 homes and businesses in Guelph are without running water in Guelph this week after a prolonged period of extreme weather froze many of the city's water mains.

Reports of frozen pipes rose sharply after Feb. 16 and have continued to rise steadily since then.

"We've seen spurts of this in the past," said Peter Busatto, general manager of the city's water services department. "We may have a few days with a bunch of customers coming in with frozen pipes...but not over an extended three to four week period like this."

Last year, Busatto said the city received between 100 and 150 reports of frozen pipes. This year, he said the number has already reached 400 and continues to grow each day.

Thomas King hands out buckets of water, free showers

Older parts of the city, including Water Street, where award-winning author Thomas King lives, have been hardest hit. 

King, the author of The Inconvenient Indian and Green Grass, Running Water, said most of the homes on his street are without water, except for his own. 

'If you don't have water, it changes your whole life.' - Author Thomas King

"If you don't have water, it changes your whole life," he said. "It's not as if you can get up and brush your teeth, for instance, or flush a toilet."

For the past week, King has been filling buckets with water and letting neighbours use his shower.

"It's just one of those things where you're good neighbours...and something happens and you say, 'Okay, let's see what we can do to fix it.'"

Repair crews must wait for ground to thaw

Over the past three weeks, city workers have found frost as deep as 1.8 metres which is the depth at which the city buries its water mains.

"Traditionally, with an average winter, they're safe if they're at that depth," Busatto said of the city's pipes, "but this certainly has not been an average winter."

Busatto and his crew must wait for the ground to thaw before they can do any permanent repairs to the city's pipes. 

In the meantime, the city is offering relief to residents and businesses through its Frozen Water Assistance Program, which includes gift certificates for bottled water, free showers at city recreation centres and free access to local laundromats. 

The city is also trying to restore water to those affected by running hoses between homes that have water and those that don't. It plans to install 150 of these lines by the weekend and the remaining lines next week.