Posts Tagged ‘Main Breaks’

February 14, 2014

Main Breaks by the Numbers: 200 Main Breaks in First Six Weeks of 2014

DSC_2681Despite an aggressive preventative maintenance program in Central Iowa, water mains around Des Moines are breaking at a record number, Cold weather and corrosion of pipes have teamed up to cause pipe failures. The extreme drop in mercury drives frost penetration to a greater depth.  Deeper frost penetration causes the corroded water mains to break. With expected warmer temperatures in the coming days, it can cause the frost line to move quickly and cause breaks as well.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 grade for America’s drinking water infrastructure was a D, which is no surprise considering Des Moines Water Works has repaired a record number of main breaks in one month: 122 breaks in January. To date, Des Moines Water Works crews have repaired 200 main breaks, with as many as 12 in a single day.

The 10 year average for total main breaks in a year is 290. On average, half of the main breaks occur in the three winter months of December, January and February.  The total number of main breaks in 2013 was 342. The highest number of breaks in one year was 365, set in 1988.

The average cost of a main break is around $5,000-7,000 for labor, materials and equipment. This does not account for the loss of water at a main break. The 2014 budget for emergency repairs is approximately $1.5 million. So far in 2014, Des Moines Water Works has spent approximately $1 million in repairing water mains.  Any impact of this year’s main break experience will be analyzed when determining the 2015 water rates.

Though largely out of sight and out of mind, Des Moines Water Works operates and maintains more than 1,300 miles of underground water mains distributing finished drinking water to homes and business in Des Moines and surrounding communities. The pipes in the distribution system are made from cast iron, concrete and plastic and also vary in size, from half-inch diameter service lines to 48-inch diameter transmission mains. Pipes installed between 1940 and 1960 are leading to most of the main breaks in Des Moines. The oldest pipe (circa 1900), which can be found in Downtown Des Moines, is some of the best in the distribution system.

“While every main break is different, fixing it quickly and safely are top priorities,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “Our goal is to minimize disruption to our customers who live, work and commute in the area.”

Des Moines Water Works invests millions of dollars each year in infrastructure improvements. The 2014 capital improvements budget includes $2.2 million for water main replacement within the Des Moines water distribution system. These funds will be used to replace water mains that have reached their useful life expectancy – water mains with a high occurrence of breaks.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Customers, Infrastructure July 2, 2012

Rising Water Demand

Water main breaks are often associated with cold, icy weather. But when hot, dry weather increases customers’ water demand for irrigation, recreation and hydration, main breaks can be just as frequent.

Des Moines Water Works water pumpage record of 92 million gallons a day (mgd) was set in June 2006. Pumpage has yet to reach that level in 2012, but demand is increasing.

Central Iowa is fortunate to have sufficient sources of water to meet the needs of residential, business, industrial, and governmental customers.  In addition, Des Moines Water Works has made significant financial investments in treatment plants, pumps, tanks, piping, and reservoir storage to meet customers’ drinking water needs.

These assets can be affected by increased demand. Water demand puts stress on older water mains throughout the water distribution area which may lead to a break.

If a main break occurs in your neighborhood, Des Moines Water Works crews work quickly to make the repair and restore water service. Due to the urgency of such situations, our crews make the repair process their top priority. Occasionally, this means water service may be interrupted for periods of time without prior notification.

If you see water in the street, please call Des Moines Water Works at.283-8700. Our Water Distribution team can determine the cause and arrange for any necessary repairs. With early detection, a repair can be made more quickly.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation, Customer Service, Infrastructure December 3, 2010

After a Main Break

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

Posted by: Amy Kahler No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Infrastructure