Lindsay Enns’ Britta filter has been working overtime to sift out the brown sediment coming out of her water tap. Her toilet has had brown water, too.

“One day it will be fine, the next day it's brown, then one day fine, the next day brown,” she said.

Enns is not the only one experiencing brown water. Complaints to 311 have shot up recently, and the City of Winnipeg has hired a consultant to find out why some Winnipeggers have been seeing brown water coming of their taps.

One theory is that water thieves are putting an increased strain on the city’s water supply. Use of city hydrants by firefighters, city crews, and construction officials with a permit can lead to increased flows, but sometimes people actually steal water from fire hydrants contributing to the problem, city officials said.

“Any kind of event that can rapidly change the flow in the system can contribute to (brown water),” said water distribution engineer Tim Shanks.

A sudden change in flows leads to sediment being stirred up in city water mains and causes the water to turn brown, said Shanks.

“In the summer, there is more activity that would use water supply from hydrants … and we see these complaints increase in the summer, so it's a definite possibility,” he said.

The city is reviewing its current bylaw to see if any changes can be made to flush out the thieves.

Enns said it's hard to believe someone would actually steal water. “It sounds very far-fetched, I guess this day and age nothing surprises me anymore.”

There are 20,000 hydrants in the city. Of those, only 100 are used by private contractors.

The city maintains the water is safe even if it is discoloured. If you experience brown water in your house, shut it off and wait a half an hour. If it is persists, call 311.

With a report by Jeff Keele