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Laurel, Md. – January 12, 2022 – The numbers tell the tale. The Potomac River hit a new low temperature this winter, and water mains in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are breaking at a swift pace.

The river temperature has dropped 15 degrees since the beginning of January…from 53 degrees to 38 degrees, and the number of water main breaks has been steadily increasing. WSSC Water experienced 42 water main breaks in the past two days, up from 18 over the two days prior. 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 systems are more than 50 years old.

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.

Water Main Break Statistics:

November 1, 2021 – January 10, 2022: 542 water main breaks repaired

January 1- 11, 2022: 77 water main breaks repaired

January 2018: Busiest month on record – 802 water mains repaired (polar vortex)

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.

Find more #WinterReady information here.

broken main graph

To view Potomac River temps vs. breaks/leaks: wsscwater.com/rivertemp.



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.