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)”

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