As cold weather draws near, water main breaks become more common. The months of December, January and February bring the highest number of water main breaks. Underground water mains can break for a number of reasons including corrosion, frost heave, and pressure fluctuations. Des Moines Water Works crews repair an average of 250 water main breaks each year. When a water main breaks, generally water comes to the surface and flows across the ground to a storm sewer or other waterway. Large water main breaks can reduce water pressure in the area and the flowing water can cause damage. If you see water surfacing, you should contact Des Moines Water Works at (515) 283-8700 to report a possible break.
Once a water main break has been confirmed, the exact location of the break is determined using ultrasonic leak detection equipment. This equipment listens to the sound the water makes as it exits the pipe and can determine the location of the leak based on the intensity of the sound. When the location of the leak has been determined, water service in the area must be shut down so the break can be repaired. Depending on the time of day and the extent of the outage, it may not be possible to notify customers before the water is shut off. Typically the water is off for approximately three hours.
When the water comes back on, there will likely be air in your water service piping. It is a good idea to run the first water after an outage through a faucet that does not have an aerator screen, such as bathtubs and hose bibs. Open faucets slowly to allow the air to escape. Air will make a spurting or hissing sound as it escapes through the faucet. Once the water is flowing, allow the faucet to run for a minute or two. The first water may be cloudy due to air in the water or particles that dislodge as the pipes fill with water. This should clear fairly quickly. If water is cloudy throughout the house and it does not clear after allowing the water to run for several minutes, contact Des Moines Water Works dispatch center at (515) 283-8772 for assistance.
If kitchen or bathroom faucets do not perform normally following a water outage, it may be necessary to remove the aerator screen. Typically, the aerator can simply be unscrewed from the faucet. Inspect the screen for small particles and rinse away any you find. Reinstall the aerator and test performance of the faucet again. If you experience difficulties such as low pressure throughout the house following a water outage call Des Moines Water Works dispatch center at (515) 283-8772 for assistance.
You can find a list of current DMWW water outages here: http://www.dmww.com/EmergencyOutagesPopup.aspx