Minnesota's rural water systems are seeing more problems than normal with underground water pipes freezing this winter.
The situation may be the worst ever, said Mark Johnson, chief executive of Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water in southwest Minnesota.
"We're experiencing extreme cold this year and this is causing, to us, a phenomenal problem with freeze-ups," said Johnson, who runs the state's largest rural water system, serving more than 4,000 customers. "People that have been here for a long time are telling me that they've never experienced before."
Crews have had to address more than a dozen freeze-ups so far in the system's 10-county service area. The ground may be frozen as far as seven feet below the surface. In one spot, nearly a quarter mile section of pipe was frozen, forcing crews to dig down to the lines to thaw them, Johnson added.
Many communities across the state are also dealing with frozen pipes.
Lincoln Pipestone is telling its customers to take the temperature of the cold water coming out of the tap and let a thin stream of water - about the size of lead from a pencil -- run if the water temperature is below 35 degrees.
Clients should "continue this until mid-April or until the water temperature comes back up over 34" degrees the utility said.