Winter Weather and Water Main Breaks

Here in Atlanta, summers are hot and muggy, the winters are cold and wet, and the temperatures typically vary from 35 to 89 degrees. Occasionally they dip down into the twenties, and on a rare day, it will climb high into the nineties.

After a dry, hot summer, it’s almost welcome relief as the months fade away. Fall turns into winter, and the rains begin to fall. Snow, too, will fall from time to time. And that’s when water main breaks have the opportunity to rise.Winter Weather and Water Main Breaks

Temperatures impact water mains. As small as a ten degree variance in the air or water temperature can dramatically increase the stress put on a pipe. As the water temperature cools down to 40 degrees and below, it can cause the pipes to become more brittle. And if the air temperatures hover at or below freezing for long period of time, it can cause the ground above a pipe to freeze, which causes external stress on a pipe.

All of this stress adds up over time. And since water temperature lags behind the air temperature, you won’t see a leak during the cold spell. Instead, a water main break may occur one to two days after the cold spell, when things begin warming up.

Of course, freezing temperatures aren’t the only thing that can cause a problem with your water main. Many other factors contribute to water main breaks:

Material – depending on the age of your pipes, different materials have different lifespans

Soil Erosion – nearby construction, erosion, or even tiny cracks in a pipe can cause the soil to shift around the water main, which can eventually lead to a break

Corrosion – older pipes are not lined with cement and will eventually corrode from the inside out

Pipe Diameter – smaller pipes are at greater risk for breaking

Age – age alone cannot always be used as an indicator. But with all other characteristics combined, you can use age to judge the likelihood of a water main break.

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