MONTREAL - Over one million Montrealers were affected by a boil-water advisory Wednesday after an apparent malfunction at Canada's second-biggest filtration plant.

The incident resulted in brownish water gushing from fire hydrants and an unpleasant aroma wafting, at least temporarily, over parts of the city.

The boil-water advisory applied to most of the island and even some neighbouring areas. Local officials described it as unprecedented in the recent history of the city.

"To my knowledge, it's the first time that we have in Montreal a boil-water advisory for so many people," said Valerie De Gagne, a spokesperson for the city.

She said the advisory applied to 1.3 million people, and would remain in place until at least Thursday morning. She said tests would be conducted in the meantime to determine whether the water was, in fact, contaminated.

"Once we get the results," she said, "we will be able to maintain the advisory or take it down."

Residents were advised to boil their water for at least a minute, or to use bottled water. They were also asked to avoid brushing their teeth with tap water.

However, tap water could still be used to wash dishes, take a shower or wash clothes.

The city said the advisory was prompted by abnormally low water levels at a treatment plant in the city's west end.

"The water (at the plant) dropped to a very low level. The sediments that were at the bottom ended up in the aqueducts," De Gagne said.

The affected Atwater station is the second-largest plant of its kind in Canada. It has been undergoing repair work. It remained unclear why the water dropped to such a low level, and whether the incident involved human error.

Equally unclear, Wednesday, was the water in the city. A number of residents reported seeing a brownish liquid gushing from their taps.

The fountain around city hall, for instance, looked like it was filled with mud.

While some Montreal boroughs initially started purging their fire hydrants, they were asked to stop to ensure adequate water supplies for the city, De Gagne said.

The gushing hydrants created bizarre scenes in the city, as rapids temporarily rushed down sloping streets.

It was reminiscent of an incident last winter, where a problem during renovations at a reservoir on Mount Royal caused far bigger flooding with frigid water in the city's downtown.

It was also the second major infrastructure problem in Montreal in less than 24 hours. The previous evening, the city's metro system had suffered a complete shutdown at the height of rush hour because of computer issues.

There was yet another glitch Wednesday: the city website, which carried the water advisory, appeared to be down during the morning.

Social media conversations were awash with locals fretting about the state of their scandal-plagued, service-disrupted city.

The frustration only mounted when there was another subway interruption Wednesday evening — this time when someone apparently stepped onto the tracks.

"I hope Montreal's still under warranty," one man tweeted in French, "because it's clearly broken."

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  • 7. Oklahoma

    <strong>Percent of state in severe drought:</strong> 83.2% <strong>Percent of state in extreme drought:</strong> 56.7% (4th highest) <strong>Percent of state in exceptional drought:</strong> 9.7% (6th highest) Over half the area of Oklahoma currently suffers from extreme drought — the second worst level listed on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Oklahoma shares this distinction with just four other states. Drought conditions have actually improved since the start of the year. The percentage of the state facing exceptional drought — the worst category of drought — has fallen from 37% at the start of the year to less than 10% currently. In January, the USDA declared a large part of the winter wheat belt, spanning from Texas to North Dakota, as a disaster area due to the lack of moisture. According to the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, recent precipitation has not been enough to help the winter wheat crop in the state that had to be planted in dry soil. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/03/21/the-seven-states-running-out-of-water/#ixzz2P2lNh39V" target="_blank">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 6. Wyoming

    <strong>Percent of state in severe drought:</strong> 83.7% <strong>Percent of state in extreme drought:</strong> 54.7% (5th highest) <strong>Percent of state in exceptional drought:</strong> 10.1% (5th highest) Wyoming is one of the driest states in the country, a condition not likely to improve in the near future. According to the National Weather Service, the drought is expected to persist or worsen in most of the state over the next few months. The most critical drought problems are taking place in the eastern portion of the state. In the summer of 2012, Governor Matt Mead had to ask the federal government for disaster relief due to the drought. During the year before the request, ranchers working on non-irrigated land had lost about half their pasture grass and hay production because of the drought, a state agriculture official told Reuters. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/03/21/the-seven-states-running-out-of-water/#ixzz2P2lNh39V" target="_blank">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 5. South Dakota

    <strong>Percent of state in severe drought:</strong> 86.3% <strong>Percent of state in extreme drought:</strong> 67.5% (2nd highest) <strong>Percent of state in exceptional drought:</strong> 20.1% (4th highest) More than two-thirds of South Dakota suffers from extreme drought, the second highest portion of any state. Additionally, South Dakota is one of just four states where more than 20% of its area faces exceptional drought. As with many other states, much of South Dakota’s winter wheat crop was hurt by the lack of precipitation. According to the USDA, at the end of February, 66% of winter wheat crop was considered to be in poor or very poor condition, up from 31% in February 2012. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/03/21/the-seven-states-running-out-of-water/#ixzz2P2lNh39V" target="_blank">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 4. Colorado

    <strong>Percent of state in severe drought:</strong> 89.0% <strong>Percent of state in extreme drought:</strong> 48.1% (7th highest) <strong>Percent of state in exceptional drought:</strong> 21.2% (3rd highest) Colorado is one of five states where all of its area is considered to be in moderate drought, with nearly 90% of the state experiencing severe drought. With the exception of the Northeast corner of the state, the drought is expected to either persist or get worse over the next several months. Yet even most the Northeast corner is experiencing either extreme or exceptional drought. Due to the ongoing problems, several of Colorado’s largest municipal water providers are considering restricting spring and summer lawn-watering, potentially limiting landowners to watering their grass just twice a week. Crop production declined significantly in 2012 compared to 2011, with wheat production falling 9.3%, while corn production falling a whopping 29%. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/03/21/the-seven-states-running-out-of-water/#ixzz2P2lNh39V" target="_blank">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 3. New Mexico

    <strong>Percent of state in severe drought:</strong> 89.9% <strong>Percent of state in extreme drought:</strong> 49.9% (6th highest) <strong>Percent of state in exceptional drought:</strong> 4.3% (8th highest) As of early March, normal weather conditions persist in only about 0.21% of New Mexico — the highest percentage in nearly a year. However, for most of the state problems remain. Last July, the USDA designated Cibola County as a primary disaster area due to drought. Six counties bordering Cibola, including Bernalillo County where Albuquerque is located, also qualified for natural disaster assistance. In late February, Albuquerque’s water board announced a “drought watch,” which raised fines for wasting water to $40 for first offenders. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/03/21/the-seven-states-running-out-of-water/#ixzz2P2lNh39V" target="_blank">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 2. Kansas

    <strong>Percent of state in severe drought:</strong> 96.4% <strong>Percent of state in extreme drought:</strong> 64.6% (3rd highest) <strong>Percent of state in exceptional drought:</strong> 21.4% (2nd highest) Severe drought conditions persist in more than 96% of Kansas. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of the state is experiencing extreme drought, while more than one-fifth is experiencing exceptional drought. The good news for Kansas is that rain in March has eased the drought, although National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Kleinsasser told the Associated Press earlier this week that the state is still experiencing “precipitation deficits” of as much as 20 inches in many parts of the state. Kansas produces about 20% of the nation’s wheat, more than any other state. Wheat production was up 38% in 2012 compared to 2011, although the drought affecting the state probably will make this level of production unsustainable for 2013. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/03/21/the-seven-states-running-out-of-water/#ixzz2P2lNh39V" target="_blank">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 1. Nebraska

    <strong>Percent of state in severe drought:</strong> 100% <strong>Percent of state in extreme drought:</strong> 96.1% (the highest) <strong>Percent of state in exceptional drought:</strong> 76.4% (the highest) Nebraska is unique among all states in that all areas are experiencing at least a severe drought. Worse, extreme drought conditions persist in more than 96% of the state, with a stunning 76% of the state experiencing exceptional drought. In the next worst-hit state, Kansas, just 21.4% of all area suffers from exceptional drought. Drought has hurt much of the state’s winter wheat crop, 50% of which was in poor or very poor condition at the end of February, up from just 6% last year. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center estimates that the drought in Nebraska will last — with some improvement in conditions — through at least the end of May. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/03/21/the-seven-states-running-out-of-water/#ixzz2P2lNh39V" target="_blank">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>