I Think My Water Main is Broken. What Should I Do?
Imagine a hidden lifeline that connects your home’s plumbing system to the vast network of the public water supply. This vital link is known as the water main, responsible for channeling clean water directly into your pipes, ensuring an uninterrupted water supply for your daily needs.
However, like any infrastructure, water mains are not immune to occasional disruptions. When a water main break occurs, the responsibility for fixing it depends on its location. If the issue arises from the public mains, the city takes charge of the repairs. If the problem occurs on the water main supply line directly connected to your house, it’s generally the homeowners responsibility. Your water main line is located underground and in your yard which means that if it breaks, the water main can only be accessed by digging. Because of this, it’s important to know the signs of a break so that you can catch the problem sooner rather than later. Do you suspect you have a water main break? Read our guide on what to do if your water main breaks and when to get a local plumber involved!
How Can A Water Main Break?
One of the most common reasons a water main can break is when there are temperature changes such as overly dry or overly wet weather. When that happens it can cause the ground to shift. When the ground shifts, the pipes can also shift and result in cracking and breaking.
Besides temperature changes, some other causes of water main breaks can be:
- Corrosion: Over time, water mains can deteriorate due to corrosion. Corrosion occurs when the pipe material reacts with the surrounding environment, leading to the weakening of the pipe structure. Factors such as soil composition, water chemistry, and the presence of corrosive substances can accelerate the corrosion process.
- Soil Conditions: The type and condition of the soil in which water mains are installed play a significant role in their stability. Soil movement and erosion can put stress on the pipes, causing them to crack or break. Unstable or expansive soils, such as clay or loose sands, pose a higher risk of water main failures.
- High Water Pressure: Sudden or excessive changes in water pressure within the distribution system can strain the water mains. Pressure surges can occur due to factors like water hammer (rapid valve closure), power outages, pump failures, or sudden changes in demand. These pressure fluctuations can weaken the pipe walls over time, making them more susceptible to breaks.
- Poor Installation or Maintenance: Improper installation practices or inadequate maintenance can contribute to water main breaks. Insufficient support, inadequate bedding, or improper backfilling during installation can lead to pipe misalignment or settlement. Inadequate maintenance practices, such as neglecting leak repairs or not conducting regular inspections, can exacerbate existing issues and increase the likelihood of failures.
- Material: The material used in the construction of water mains can influence their susceptibility to breaks. Older pipes may be more prone to failures compared to modern materials.
By considering these factors and implementing proper maintenance practices and regular inspections, water utility companies can minimize the risk of water main breaks and ensure a reliable water supply to communities and your home.
Signs Your Water Main is Broken
When not taken care of in the early stages, water main breaks can cause serious damage. This is why knowing the warning signs can save you time and money. Here are some of the common signs your water main might be broken:
- Low water pressure throughout the entire house: A broken water main disrupts the normal flow of water to your property. As a result, you may notice a significant decrease in water pressure when using faucets, showers, or other water fixtures throughout your home. If the low water pressure is not localized to a specific faucet or fixture, it could be a sign of a larger issue with the water main.
- Cracks in the foundation of your home: When a water main breaks, the water can seep into the soil around your property. This excess water can put pressure on the foundation of your home, potentially causing cracks to appear. If you notice new or expanding cracks in your foundation, particularly in areas near where the water main is located, it could be an indication of a water main break.
- Water flowing or gushing from the ground: One of the most obvious signs of a water main break is water visibly flowing or gushing from the ground. This can occur near the water main line or even in your yard. If you notice water coming up from the ground, it is important to contact your water utility company immediately, as this signifies a significant breakage in the water main.
- Unexplained water in the street/sinkholes: A broken water main can lead to water pooling in the street or even create sinkholes. If you observe water collecting in the street or notice sinkholes forming, it could indicate a severe water main break that requires immediate attention. These issues pose risks to public safety and should be reported to your water utility company promptly.
- Puddles of water in your home: If you find unexplained puddles of water inside your home, particularly in areas without nearby plumbing fixtures, it could be a sign of a hidden water main leak. A broken water main can cause water to infiltrate the foundation, walls, or floors, leading to unexpected water damage inside your home.
- Increase in water bill: A sudden increase in your water bill, especially if you haven’t changed your water usage habits, could be an indication of a water main break. A significant leak in the main line can cause a substantial amount of water to be lost, resulting in higher water consumption and subsequent higher costs.
- An unpleasant odor: When a water main breaks, stagnant water can accumulate in the surrounding area. This standing water can develop a foul smell over time. If you detect an unpleasant odor, particularly in your yard or near where the water main is located, it could be an indication of a breakage or leak.
- Damp drywall: A broken water main can lead to water infiltration within your home’s walls. If you notice damp or moist areas on your drywall, especially without an apparent source of water, it could be a sign of a water main issue. Damp drywall can also contribute to the growth of mold and mildew, presenting additional health concerns.
Remember, if you notice any of these signs or have concerns about the integrity of your water main, it’s best to contact your water utility company or a professional plumber. They can assess the situation, determine the cause of the problem, and take appropriate measures to resolve it.
What to Do if My Water Main Breaks?
When faced with a damaged or broken water main, it’s important to take immediate action to mitigate the situation and facilitate a smoother recovery process. By following a series of steps, you can address the issue effectively and minimize potential disruptions. Here are some recommended measures to help you navigate through this challenging situation with greater ease and efficiency:
- Assess the extent of the damage: You may want to shut off your main water supply to stop the water leakage. Determine the severity of the water main break by inspecting the area and looking for signs such as water pooling, decreased water pressure, or visible leaks. This will help you understand the scope of the problem and plan your next steps accordingly.
- Notify the water utility company: Contact your local water utility company or public works department to report the water main break. They will dispatch a crew to assess and repair the damage. Provide them with accurate information about the location and any visible issues.
- Consider professional assistance: Depending on the complexity of the repair, it may be necessary to hire a professional plumber experienced in water main repairs. They have the expertise and specialized equipment to handle the job safely and efficiently.
- Secure the area: If the water main break has caused flooding or poses a safety hazard, it’s important to secure the area to prevent further damage or accidents. Consider cordoning off the affected area or placing warning signs to alert others of the potential danger.
- Document the damage: Take photographs or videos of the water main break and any resulting damage to your property. This documentation will be useful for insurance claims and can serve as evidence if needed.
- Communicate with neighbors: If the water main break affects multiple households or the community, inform your neighbors about the situation. Sharing information can help everyone take necessary precautions and be prepared for any inconveniences caused by the repair work.
- Follow safety guidelines: If the water main break has resulted in contaminated water or if you suspect the water quality is compromised, follow the guidance provided by your local health department or water utility company. Boiling water before use or using alternative water sources may be necessary until the issue is resolved.
- Keep records and receipts: Throughout the repair process, keep a record of all communications, permits, invoices, and receipts related to the water main repair. This documentation will be valuable for insurance claims or any disputes that may arise later.
- Stay informed: Regularly check for updates from the water utility company or local authorities regarding the progress of the repair work. They will provide information on estimated timelines, water usage restrictions, or any other relevant details.
- Take preventive measures: After the water main is repaired, consider taking preventive measures to minimize the risk of future water main breaks. This may include regular inspections, proactive maintenance, or even upgrading aging infrastructure if needed.
Each situation may vary, and it’s essential to consult local professionals and follow the guidance of relevant authorities to ensure a smoother recovery process.
Contact Shamrock Plumbing For Your Water Main Needs
Located in North Salt Lake City, Shamrock Plumbing, values their customers and knows how important quick problem solving and fast yet thorough services are. If you suspect a water main break or have any questions about your Utah home, please call us today so we can assess the situation and find the best solution for your problem.