Laurel, Md. – December 21, 2022 – Staffed 24/7 with plenty of people, pipes, pieces of equipment and contractors on call, WSSC Water crews are #WinterReady for the seasonal increase in water main breaks that come with dropping temperatures across the DMV.
WSSC Water repairs approximately 1,800 water main breaks/leaks each year, with approximately 65 percent (nearly 1,200) occurring during the four coldest months of November through February. WSSC Water has repaired 432 water main breaks/leaks since the beginning of November.
With a direct connection between dropping water temperatures in the Potomac River and increasing water main breaks, WSSC Water keeps a close eye on the temperature of the Potomac River this time of year. Maryland’s largest water utility typically experiences an increase in breaks a few days after the river temperature hits a new low. This chart shows the river temperature compared to water main breaks.
Between December 9 and 15, the Potomac River dropped six degrees to a new low temperature for the season. On December 16, WSSC Water experienced 22 water main breaks, the largest one-day total of breaks this season.
WSSC Water asks for their customers’ patience as crews respond to and make emergency repairs – which can typically take between 4 to 6 hours after crews have dug up and uncovered the damaged pipe. Repair time does not include the time it takes to locate the break and the time it takes for Miss Utility to mark other underground utilities (gas, electric, etc.). Other factors, like the size of the pipe, location and depth buried, can add significant time to repairs. Water mains can range from three inches to 96 inches in diameter.
Of the nearly 5,900 miles of water mains across Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, approximately 40 percent (2,380 miles) are more than 50 years old. With an extensive, aging distribution system spanning the two counties, WSSC Water has four maintenance depots strategically positioned throughout its 1,000-square-mile service area.
In addition to preparing for the increase in water main breaks during the colder months, WSSC Water is committed to investing in upgrading its aging infrastructure. Currently, the utility is replacing about 31 miles of water mains at approximately $1.4 million per mile of pipe.
Customers are encouraged to report water main breaks and leaks as quickly as possible.
There are three simple ways to report a break/leak:
The “Report a Problem” feature on WSSC Water’s mobile app allows customers to easily snap a picture of a water or sewer problem and send it directly to the Emergency Services Center. The application uses GPS to pinpoint the image’s location, which allows dispatchers to send an inspector to the site.
One of the nation’s largest water utilities, WSSC Water spends approximately $16 million each year for emergency water main repairs, with about $9.5 million spent November through February.
WSSC Water maintains the pipes in the streets and the connections up to the property line. If a pipe on private property or inside a home or business breaks, it is the property owner’s responsibility to repair it. For more information, including tips on preventing home plumbing pipes from freezing and bursting, check out winter-ready webpage.
Media Note: B-roll of WSSC Water crews repairing water mains is available for download here. WSSC Water personnel are also available for interviews.