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Why do water mains break in winter?

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  • Why do water mains break in winter?

    7NEWS - Lincoln Street detour caused by water main break Thursday - Local Story

    They are well below frost line. Probably where ground temperatures stay the same yearound.
    Do fire hydrant pipes pull heat away and cause stresses from pipe contractions?

    Thank you.
    I'd take an educated guess - but I'm unqualified.
    It ain't just soot, it's paydirt.
    "I swear, wherever Gift goes, argument follows." -Youtube comment

  • #2
    Re: Why do water mains break in winter?

    The water temperature would vary more than the ground temperature.

    phoebe it is


    • #3
      Re: Why do water mains break in winter?

      Winnipeg is a Canadian cold weather city.

      Here is snip from our city's web site:
      What causes water main breaks?
      Water main breaks usually result from external corrosion of the pipe. Winnipeg soil is highly conductive and corrodes the metallic pipe from the outside in. Extreme weather changes can cause the ground to swell and contract, placing excessive pressure on the water mains, causing any weakened pipe to break.

      Does cold weather cause more water main breaks?
      Cold weather is one of the extreme weather conditions that can cause water main breaks. Water main breaks are more likely to occur when frost penetrates deep into the ground, to a level of five to six feet, usually from late January until early April. While cold temperatures may send the frost deeper, the level of snow cover is also important. Snow will act as a "blanket" insulating the ground. In years when there is plenty of snow, the frost does not go as deep.
      However, just as many water main breaks can occur during other extreme weather conditions, such as a hot, dry summer when the ground is very dry, or a very wet summer. We experience just as many water main breaks in July and August as we do in January and February. In the winter months, though, the impact of water main breaks is higher, since the water has more difficulty draining because of frozen catch basins, and because street flooding and then freezing can affect traffic.

      End snip

      One thing our city is doing is attaching corrosion control (sacrificial anodes) to the mains in the older areas of the city to try and reduce the number of breaks. They pothole the main to expose the top, and have some sort of downhole tool that cleans the pipe and then welds the anode to it. They leave a capped access pipe to the surface for future anode replacements. I have one sitting in my front boulevard.


      • #4
        Re: Why do water mains break in winter?

        just plain old age is another factor that is often overlooked.
        we're at the end of the normal life cycle for much of our currently
        installed underground piping. Actually some of it is on borrowed time
        and ready to blow, and sometimes does as these occasional breaks

        New water mains and transmission lines are needed and are being replaced.
        Even concrete lined pipe does not last forever. It all requires periodic inspection
        and maintenance. Those municipalities that choose to defer inspections and
        maintenance to try to save money end up costing the taxpayer even more money
        down the road. But the politician doesn't case because by then he has moved on to
        a new position where his past mistakes can do him little harm If they are even
        identified as being connected to him.

        Many argue that borrowing money now to make these repairs and upgrades
        that our children will have to pay off is not fair to them and an unecessary
        expense. This is a short-sighted view, and if it was followed years ago you'd still
        be sh!tting in an outhouse and pumping water from a well in your back yard.
        Well, maybe not that bad but you ge the idea. There is no progress without
        visionary thinking and controlled borrowing to pay for future needs.
        If you want to leave your kids no infastructure, keep saying no to all those
        bonds that fund new schools, new roads, replace bad water and sewer mains. etc.
        Last edited by Bob D.; 12-13-2013, 04:36 PM.
        "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006


        1/20/2017 - The Beginning of a new Error


        • #5
          Re: Why do water mains break in winter?

          Bob D was talking about the age of the pipes.

          Our only aqueduct line to Winnipeg is over 100 years old and runs through some of the most corrosive aklai soil in Canada. Back then they did not know that the concrete mix could be changed to resist the soil.

          Now every few years the Greater Winnipeg Water District has to shut it down for a week or two, so contractors can do internal and external point repair with shotcrete to try and extend its life. Too bad that nobody has figured out how make an 84 mile long CiPP liner rated for potable water and install it starting in the middle of nowhere with limited access.


          • #6
            Re: Why do water mains break in winter?

            If its cast in place does it matter how long the run is?
            They have robots that go in and cut all the branch openings
            which you probably don't have in this case.
            The technology exists, but the cost may be prohibitive for some applications.
            "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006



            1/20/2017 - The Beginning of a new Error


            • #7
              Re: Why do water mains break in winter?

              Out here about 5 years ago they did a large water trunk line approx 30" diameter and slip lined the concrete lined pipe with hdpe. although the pipes internal diameter was downsided due to the wall thickness of the new hdpe, the engineers felt the reduced friction loss and fact that the new pipe will not corrode would make up the difference.

              The process and equipment was impressive. Scale removal was the first major process. The fusion welder was huge. The wall thickness of the pipe was approx 2". The entry pit was long as there's little flex in this size of pipe.

              Very similar to trenchless pipe bursting, without bursting the original pipe.

              phoebe it is


              • #8
                Re: Why do water mains break in winter?

                Then with water main breaks the water works department has the problem of not being able to quickly turn off the street valves for the mains.

                They are either stuck open from never being used after installation, the valve lid paved over/ burred under the sod, or the the riser is full of stuff requiring a visit from Mr. Vactor Truck.

                What do your water utilities do to provide water if anything during a repair? Ours has small tankers (heated in Winter) that if they have to do a full shut off (they try to do reduced flow if possible) will be dropped on the street and replenished as required.

                6 years ago on Christmas day had to do the tanker walk to have water for Christmas dinner. Got to talk to most of the neighbors that day while waiting in line for the tanker.