Dropping Potomac River Water Temps Increase Water Main Breaks in WSSC’s 5,742-mile Distribution System

| News Release



WSSC Crews and Contractors Ready 24/7 to Repair Broken Pipes

LAUREL, Md. - December 7, 2017: WSSC General Manager and CEO Carla Reid today outlined WSSC’s #WinterReady plans at the utility’s Anacostia Depot in Hyattsville - the largest of four WSSC maintenance facilities - surrounded by crews, backhoes, leak detection equipment and new zinc-coated ductile iron pipes that will last 100 years. WSSC maintains more than 5,700 miles of water mains throughout Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, and as temperatures drop in the winter, the chance of water main breaks increases. 

“WSSC is winter ready,” said Reid. “We have more than 200 personnel, hundreds of pieces of heavy equipment and contractors on standby to restore service for our customers as quickly as possible.”

WSSC closely tracks the correlation between the water temperature of the Potomac River and water main breaks. This chart shows how the number of breaks increases as the river water temperature drops. The Potomac River is the primary source of drinking water for the majority of WSSC’s 1.8 million customers.

WSSC crews repair nearly 1,800 water main breaks each year, with the vast majority of them, approximately 1,200, occurring between November and February. WSSC has already repaired 308 breaks and leaks this November.

“Our maintenance depots are stocked with all the necessary materials and equipment to handle this expected increase in water main breaks,” said WSSC’s Utility Services Director Damion Lampley.

Nearly 40 percent of WSSC water mains are more than 50 years old. With such a large water distribution network spanning both counties, customers are encouraged to report water main breaks and leaks as quickly as possible.

There are three simple ways to report a break:

The “Report a Problem” feature on WSSC’s Mobile App allows customers to easily snap a picture of water and sewer problems and send it directly to the Emergency Call Center. The application uses GPS to pinpoint the location of the image, which allows WSSC dispatchers to send an inspector to the location.

WSSC maintains the pipes in the streets and the connections up to the property line. If a pipe in your home freezes, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to repair.

What to do if a home plumbing pipe freezes:

  • Completely open the cold water faucet nearest the frozen pipe. This relieves the pressure and reduces the chance of a rupture.
  • Use a hand-held dryer if you decide to thaw the pipe yourself.
  • When in doubt, call a registered plumber.

Homeowner winterization tips:

  • Keep the temperature inside your home above 55 degrees.
  • Turn off the water to outside faucets, remove hoses and drain the pipes.
  • Inquire with your local hardware store about pipe insulation.
  • On colder nights, open cabinet doors to expose pipes to the home’s heat.
  • If a break impacts water service to your home, flush the cold water lines after service has been restored for five minutes, starting with the highest faucet in your home and opening all other taps (highest to lowest) one at a time. Turn off these faucets after five minutes – from lowest to highest.

For more information on WSSC’s #WinterReady plans, including a video on how to locate the main water shutoff valve in your home, visit:

WSSC Water is the proud provider of safe, seamless and satisfying water services, making the essential possible every day for our neighbors in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. We work to deliver our best because it’s what our customers expect and deserve.

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