Rainwater floods restaurant in Winkler, Man., as drainage, sewage systems under stress

Communities in southern Manitoba are asking residents to conserve water to reduce overwhelming drainage systems following a downpour of rain on Canada Day that flooded one business owner’s restaurant. 

The City of Winkler sent out a notice to its 14,000 residents at 11 p.m. on Monday to limit their water use. Many people posted on the City of Winkler’s Facebook posts regarding a water conservation advisory saying they had flooding in their basements. 

Ralf Dargusch, the owner of Ralph’s German Restaurant in Winkler said he was concerned whether the amount of rain would cause any flooding inside his business on Monday evening. The rain had already caused surface pooling on Winkler streets.

He checked his indoor camera footage around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday to find a shiny pool of water covering the restaurant’s kitchen tiles and immediately hurried to clean up the mess. 

“[I am] a little bit tired, but better than this morning. This was the second time in two years,” Dargusch said. 

“We have some experience now.”

Dargusch said three to five centimetres of rain soaked the restaurant’s kitchen floor, office space and carpets, which took roughly four hours to vacuum. Although he was able to reopen for customers around noon, some boxes and other items on the floor had to be thrown away. 

A pool of water covers a restaurant's kitchen tile flooring.
Three to five centimetres of water pools on the kitchen tile at Ralph’s German Restaurant in Winkler after it rained on Canada Day. (Submitted by Ralf Dargusch)

“It’s not good and I hope it’s not the future,” he said, adding that the excess water affected his business because the city’s drainage system couldn’t keep up. 

Sewage and drainage overwhelmed

Winkler’s city manager Jody Penner said the sewage and drainage system can become overwhelmed by storm water during intense rain and thunderstorms which can affect some of the pumping stations. 

When this happens, the city releases a water conservation advisory to residents so the systems have time to catch up, he said. 

“We still of course expect them to use water for essential needs, but if they can just hold off a little bit with things like laundry and conserve as much as you can with washing dishes and things like that, that all helps us to conserve some water,” Jody said. 

The city also asked people not to pump their sump pump into the sewer system because it recirculates the water and “significantly contributes” to the problem, Jody said, adding that it’s a good idea for people to install backflow preventer valves to prevent any backup into their homes.  

Water floods a street after it rained.
Water floods the street in front of Ralph’s German Restaurant in Winkler on Tuesday morning. (Submitted by Ralf Dargusch)

Jody said there are multiple reasons why someone may have water in their basement, which could involve the management of their gutters and downspout or a sump pump failure. 

The last time Winkler’s drainage and sewage system had trouble keeping up with the rain was on May 24, which also led the city to issue a water conservation notice to residents. 

“We plan our drainage systems to certain standards, but what we’ve seen in the last, even in the last five years I’d say, is more often having some intense weather.”

Jody said the city is continuing to look at its entire drainage system to see if there’s something they can do to improve it, which would involve working on some of the ditches, completing maintenance work within the older areas of Winkler and identifying whether they need to develop the standards within newer areas. 

“We plan for one and 25-year events, does that need to change?” Jody said. 

He’s hoping that by Tuesday evening, the conservation notice will be lifted and residents can start using water as normal. 

Conservation in Morden

On Monday evening, the City of Morden, which is about 14 kilometres west of Winkler, also issued a water conservation notice because the pumping stations were running at capacity, Morden’s mayor Nancy Penner said. 

“We were just worried about sewer backup, so we actually had a red code alert, which is an alert that goes out for individuals who’ve signed up for it,” Nancy said. 

The alert sends a text or phone call to people and asks them not to use excess amounts of water so the drainage systems aren’t overwhelmed — an alert that has gone out for the second time this summer. 

Nancy said the city is recognizing these weather events happening more regularly because of global warming, leaving communities to deal with the aftermath of each storm or drought. 

She hasn’t received any reports that homeowner’s basements or businesses have flooded — just many wishes for nicer weather soon.

Morden’s advisory has since ended, while Winkler’s is still active.