Keep that water running, Farmington city officials are urging residents in the wake of a rash of frozen pipes.

And, to encourage thrifty residents to run their water, the city will issue a credit for up to 3,000 gallons of usage in the spring.Farmington was hit hard by frozen water pipes over the past two weeks and the situation may not ease until spring melts the frost in the ground, according to city officials.

At one point, city manager Max Forbush said, city crews had six frozen lines awaiting their attention. That has eased up somewhat in recent days, but the problem will persist until the ground thaws, he said.

City officials are circulating a letter urging residents to keep a trickle of water running at all times to help prevent frozen pipes. But some, apparently fearing an increase in their water bills, are reluctant to run a faucet.

Mayor Robert Arbuckle last week approved a credit of up to 3,000 gallons of water, to be applied to water bills in April and May, to compensate for the extra use.

The letter to residents, from public works director Wally Hokanson, urges them to leave a pencil-size stream of water running at all times.

But City Councilman Art Maxwell, a retired engineer, Wednesday said that stream is larger than necessary and wastes water.

He is urging residents to measure out a flow of a pint per minute from a faucet, which Maxwell said his calculations show will move water at a rate of 41/2 feet per minute through a standard residential service line.

That is enough flow to prevent freezing, Maxwell said, yet will minimize waste of water.

Hokanson said the efficiency of city crews in clearing snow from Farmington streets sometimes works against them because it removes a layer of insulation that can keep pipes from freezing.

"The fact that city crews keep our roads virtually bare of snow leaves the ground without insulation and allows traffic to pound the frost deeper into the ground each day and especially at night," according to the public works director.

"If your water is frozen in the service line (between the city main and the meter or curb valve box) the city will be responsible to restore service. If water is frozen from the meter or curb valve to and including the home, the homeowner is responsible," according to Hokanson.

Forbush said the most common method of thawing copper or galvanized lines is to attach an electric welder to the line, using electrolysis. The city had to lease a high-powered welder for its lines that costs $85 an hour, Forbush said.