Dear PoP – Why all the Water Main Breaks Recently?

“Dear PoP,

I’ve been getting a slew of ‘Alert DC’ notifications about water main breaks the past few weeks. While the weather has been getting cold, even dropping below freezing now, surely it’s not cold enough for these breaks to be caused by freezing water bursting the pipes. I’d be curious if any PoP readers know why we’re seeing all of these water main breaks.”

When I posted about a recent one in Mt. Pleasant a representative of DC Water gave an explanation:

“PoP Readers,

Across the country, a water main breaks every two minutes on average. Here in the District of Columbia, we average slightly more than one a day, but far more in the early winter months. The median age of a water main in the District is 75 years, with a good number installed during the Civil War era. As you probably know from the extensive media coverage this week, the combination of old pipes and quickly changing air temperature makes water main breaks more likely.

In the budget and rate structure approved by our Board to begin this past October, DC Water is set to replace 1 percent – or approximately 11 miles – of the District’s cast-iron water mains each year. This is not as fast as we would like, but it is triple the previous replacement rate and twice the national average. It will also mean many, many more torn-up streets than before.

Continues after the jump.

Our challenge is to maintain and replace an infrastructure installed and initially funded by the federal government, almost exclusively with ratepayer funds, while also spending literally billions of dollars to meet environmental mandates on the wastewater treatment side.

This is a nationwide issue, and we have joined with our sister utilities across the country to lobby Congress and federal agencies for more funding. In the meantime, we recognize that water main breaks are an inconvenience that leads to water outages and traffic disturbances. If you see one of our Team Blue members out in the field and fixing one of these, we urge you to give him or her your thanks. It’s not easy work this time of year.

Finally, we do comb the comments on PoP from time to time, but the best way to reach us if you see a fire hydrant problem or water main break is to call us at (202) 612-3400 or send a tweet to @mydcwater.

Happy holidays,
The Office of Public Affairs
District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water)”

10 Comment

  • You know, POP, something happened a long time ago in DC, and people might not want to talk about it. DC was under the heel of the French. You know, Marion Barry and whatever. And we got together and swore a pact to the devil. DC said, “We will serve you if you will get us free from the Marion Barry.” True story. And so, the devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.”
    And the devil kicked Barry out. But ever since, DC has been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That bald guy who couldn’t get re-elected. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Chevy Chase; on the other side is all those losers on the wrong side of town. DC is in desperate poverty. We need to pray for DC to make a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now, we’re helping the suffering people in DC, and the suffering is unimaginable. It’s also really wet.

  • I’m not sure that this was part of a Satanic pact, but I was at DC Water the other day, and they said that their brand new computerized meter system allowed them to help anticipate breaks based on flow rates, age of pipes, temperature — a constellation of data they collect. They’re working with IBM to develop their algorithms. Some of the pipes being used right now are literally Civil War era.

    I’m skeptical about their implementation of the new plan, but I will say one thing. I had a broken toilet flapper, and I got an email from DC Water letting me know I probably had a leak somewhere, due to increased usage in the past couple days. So something with the new system is working…

  • Frost heave of the soil cracks the pipes.

  • I wonder if that is also what is cracking my plaster walls!

  • Because it’s been cold.

  • Cuz like with every other aspect of DC policy the focus is not on substance. I’d say it was on style, but I don’t think that is true either. I think most DC money still goes up the nose of Barry and his ilk.

  • At 18th and Q for 2 of the past 4 nights, late-night work crews have been attending to a gas leak. Don’t know why the work has had to begin at 10 pm (Wednesday) and midnight (Saturday)–jackhammers and whatnot–and has been so piecemeal, but looks like no end in sight, since this a.m. they’ve left a bunch of painted lines in the street indicating whatever they’re planning to dig up next. At midnight tonight, maybe.

Comments are closed.