Thousands of residents in Ottawa's south end have a good excuse to avoid laundry and dishwashing over the next few days —they're being asked toconservewater and avoid a major north-south arterial road as much as possible as crews work to repair a broken water main.

It may take until the end of the week to fix the 1.5-metre-wide pipe on Woodroffe Avenue near Hunt Club Road, leaving half of the 80,000 residents in Barrhaven, Manotick and Riverside South with reduced water pressure, city officials said.

Three lanes of Woodroffe Avenue near Hunt Club Road had reopened by noon Monday after a morning closure caused byahuge geyserthat shotoutas a pipe ruptured while crewswere trying torepair it.

Witness Sue Scolli, who works in an office across the street, said a water spout as high as her building and as wide as a bus roared up from a hole in the middle of Woodroffe Avenueat the start of excavation work near the intersection.

"It was phenomenal. Everything was floating down the road. The water was so high it started to come over the median," she said, adding that workers were wading up to their knees and the water was coming up over the tires of cars.

The incidentcausedcrews totemporarily suspend the excavation, and Transitway buses were rerouted to Greenbank Road, city spokesman Michael Fitzpatrick said.

By early afternoon, the leak was under control, and at least one lane was open in each direction, with a third alternating between the two directions depending on traffic volumes.

The city is trying to figure out what caused the rupture, which makes it certain that a custom-built replacement pipe is required, and means repairs could take until the end of the week.

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Water gushed after crews began excavation to repair a broken water main at Woodroffe Avenue south of Hunt Club Road. ((CBC))

Dixon Weir, Ottawa's director of utility services, told CBC's Ottawa Morning on Monday that as a result of the repairs, some residents in the Pine Glen neighbourhood may find that their wateris a little reddish and rusty, but the pipes only needto be flushed for a few minutes and there are no health risks associated with the colour.

"Drinking water quality will remain high and potable throughout this period," said. "What we will be experiencing is a reduction in pressure."

Put off laundry, dishes: city

Residents should put off laundry, automatic dishwashing and other non-essential water use Monday and Tuesday, and avoid Woodroffe Avenue, Weir said.

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Traffic was backed up after the city reduced Woodroffe Avenue to one lane and then closed it altogether during water main repairs. ((CBC))

"We're encouraging people, if they can, to take transit," he said, suggesting also that carpoolingand alternate routesbe considered.

The city found out about the water main break on Friday when officials heard reports of water on the street.

Repairing the breakwas put off until Monday because of the possibility that a custom-fit replacement pipe section might be needed.

"And that can only be constructed and manufactured in Montreal on Monday,"Weir said. "Rather than run the risk of starting and having to stop … we felt that it was more prudent to only begin when we had access to all the available resources."

City staff saidthebroken water mainis 31 years old, but is supposed to last twice that long. The cause of the failure is unknown, but corrosion is suspected.