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Water sales gushing in Winnipeg

Grocers struggle to keep bottled water in stock in wake of boil-water advisory

Crazy. That's how Winnipeg grocer Husni Zeid described demand for bottled water in the wake of the boil-water advisory issued to the city’s 700,000 residents this week.

"We received 20 pallets from our supplier an hour ago and we only have five left," Zeid told Canadian Grocer early Wednesday afternoon from the parking lot of his Portage Avenue Foodfare location as he helped load product into customers' cars.

It’s one of five Foodfare stores the Zeid family owns in the Manitoba capital.

Zeid said that sales of water began to go up when a cautionary citywide advisory was issued Tuesday, following the discovery of E. coli bacteria and coliform in the city's water supply.

But he said there was a run on water Wednesday at all five of his family's stores, though his was the only location where product was being sold from pallets outside.

Zeid said he didn't expect to get any more water in stock once the pallets were all purchased.

"Our supplier has informed us that they are completely sold out," said Zeid. "They are trying to find more."

Other Winnipeg grocers are also struggling to keep bottled water in stock.

"There's definitely been a run on all of the bottled water products in our stores," said Red River Co-operatives general manager Doug Wiebe.

"We've pretty much depleted our supplies some of our stores are currently out of water."

He added his gas-and-grocery co-op chain continues to get product from its wholesaler, Federated Co-operatives, which is scrambling to bring in water from other Western provinces.

"The demand is currently taxing our system, but we're coping," said Wiebe.

Adam Schinkel, co-owner of Water World, a Winnipeg bottled water company, told Canadian Press that he reopened his stores when the advisory was announced late Tuesday.

"Our phones are ringing off the hook and we have a steady stream of customers coming in,'' he said. "We're here to help people that do need the water. From what I'm hearing, a lot of the grocery stores are already sold out of bottled water, so that's sort of where we come into play.''

Winnipeg issued the boil-water advisory Tuesday night after routine sampling turned up some potentially harmful bacteria in the municipal water supply. Six water samples showed the presence of E. coli and coliform at extremely low levels. Further testing was being done on Wednesday came back clean but as of Thursday morning the city was still under the boil-water advisory.

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