Laurel, Md. – February 1, 2022 – Montgomery and Prince George’s County residents should prepare for increased water main breaks and leaks this week as the Potomac River hit a new low temperature this winter: 35.2 degrees on January 30. The river temperature has dropped about 18 degrees since the beginning of January. Residents are urged to visit wsscwater.com/winterready to learn how to prepare for the sudden loss of water due to a break.
WSSC Water closely monitors the river temperature. Water main breaks tend to increase a few days after the river temperature hits a new low because the colder water takes time to travel through approximately 5,800 miles of distribution mains. Aging infrastructure is a critical factor in breaks and leaks. The older, often brittle pipes are “shocked” by the colder water, causing them to break. Approximately 40 percent of the water mains in WSSC Water’s system are more than 50 years old.
While January 2022 won’t go down in the water main break record book, it was a very busy month for WSSC Water crews, who repaired 406 breaks and leaks throughout both counties. Here’s a breakdown of January breaks and leaks during the past four years:
January 2021: 310
January 2020: 160
January 2019: 305
January 2018: 802
During a typical year, WSSC Water crews repair nearly 1,800 water main breaks and leaks, approximately 60 percent of which (1,100) occur between November and February. With one month to go during the busy break season, WSSC Water crews have repaired 875 breaks and leaks since November 1, 2021.
WSSC Water, serving 1.9 million customers in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, maintains more than 5,800 miles of water mains covering a 1,000-square-mile area. With such an extensive, aging distribution system spanning the two 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 Water’s mobile app allows customers to easily snap a picture of a water or sewer problem and send it directly to the Emergency Call Center. The application uses GPS to pinpoint the location of the image, which allows dispatchers to send an inspector to the location.
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/business freezes, it is the property owner’s responsibility to repair it.
To view Potomac River temps vs. breaks/leaks: wsscwater.com/rivertemp.