Breaking News… Literally!

Winter Wallops WSSC’s Record for Water Main Breaks

| News Release



Laurel – February 1, 2018 – One hundred years … that’s how long WSSC has been providing safe, clean water to the residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Yet WSSC has never experienced so many water main breaks and leaks in a single month (January) -- or over the course of one winter. And winter isn’t even over!

“The record-breaking cold temperatures earlier this winter triggered a record number of broken water mains,” said WSSC General Manager and CEO Carla A. Reid. “I want to thank our customers for their patience as WSSC crews worked around the clock to repair broken mains and restore service as quickly as possible.”

There were 819 breaks and leaks in January 2018, making it the single busiest month for water main breaks in WSSC’s century of service.

Water Main Breaks & Leaks Winter 2017 - 2018

  • November 2017 – 317 breaks & leaks
    • (Record: November 2008 - 374)
  • December 2017 – 517 breaks & leaks
    • (Record: December 2010 - 647)
  • January 2018 – 819 breaks & leaks
    • (Previous record: January 2009 - 607)

Total – 1,653

WSSC crews repair nearly 1,800 water main breaks and leaks each year, with the vast majority of them, approximately 1,200, occurring between November and February. Since WSSC has already experienced 1,653 breaks and leaks in the past three months, this winter will likely surpass the average yearly total.

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.

While WSSC crews are caught up on the backlog of broken water mains, there are still more than 100 leaks in need of detection and repair. WSSC uses acoustic-based technology to pinpoint the hard-to-find leaks in small diameter pipes. WSSC maintains more than 5,700 miles of water mains throughout both counties. With such a large water distribution network, customers are encouraged to report water main breaks and leaks directly to WSSC:

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.

The large number of breaks has increased the demand for permanent paving with hot mix asphalt. WSSC asks for customers’ and motorists’ continued patience as there is limited hot mix asphalt available during winter months. When hot mix asphalt is available, permanent paving will be prioritized based on safety, road condition and if it is a major roadway. All paving is done weather permitting.

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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