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. Des Moines Water Works crews repair an average of 300 water main breaks each year. Although DMWW has a proactive and aggressive main replacement program, underground water mains can break for a number of reasons including corrosion, frost heave, and pressure fluctuations.
When a water main breaks, generally water comes to the surface and flows across the ground to a storm sewer or waterway. Large water main breaks can reduce water pressure in the area and the flowing water can cause damage. If you witness a main break or see water flowing in the street, please call Des Moines Water Works at 283-8772. Des Moines Water Works is committed to providing our customers with safe, quality drinking water. To honor that commitment, Des Moines Water Works crews are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to main breaks, ensuring that your service is restored as quickly as possible.
Once a water main break has been confirmed, the exact location of the break is determined using acoustic 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. The safety of our employees and the public during a main break repair is a top priority. Special attention is given to trench safety which protects our employees and to traffic control which protects our employees as well as the traveling public. Before the water service is restored, the repaired water main is flushed and sampled to restore the best possible water quality. An average main break takes four hours to repair. You can find current water outages at www.dmww.com.
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 a bathtub. 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.
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, contact Des Moines Water Works at 283-8772 for assistance.