Laurel, Md. – January 22, 2024 – The Potomac River temperature is like a crystal ball when predicting a spike in water main breaks in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
The river temperature has dropped about 13 degrees in the past 12 days from 46 to 33 degrees, triggering a significant uptick in the number of water main breaks/leaks. WSSC Water has experienced 166 water main breaks/leaks in the past 12 days – with 82 since Saturday.
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 5,900 miles of water distribution mains.
Aging infrastructure is a critical factor in breaks and leaks. The older 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 more than 1,800 water main breaks and leaks, approximately 65 percent of which (1,152) occur between November and February.
“WSSC Water crews are prepared and ready to handle the increase in water main breaks and leaks we experience when the Potomac River temperatures drop,” said WSSC Water General Manager and CEO Kishia L. Powell. “We appreciate customers’ patience as our crews work long days and nights to restore service under very difficult weather conditions. Our aggressive asset management strategy targets communities with older mains that experience numerous breaks. We will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to secure necessary funding to invest in our critical infrastructure.”
Water Main Break/Leaks Statistics:
- November 1, 2023 – January 22, 2024: 719 water main breaks/leaks
- January 1- 22, 2024: 234 water main breaks/leaks
- January 20 – 22. 2024: 82 water main breaks/leaks
WSSC Water, serving 1.9 million customers in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, maintains approximately 5,900 miles of water mains covering a 1,000-square-mile area. With such an extensive, aging distribution system spanning the two counties, WSSC Water encourages customers 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 image’s location, allowing dispatchers to send an inspector to the location.
One of the nation’s largest water utilities, WSSC Water spends approximately $17 million each year for emergency water main repairs, with about $10 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 freezes, it is the property owner’s responsibility to repair it.
Find more #WinterReady information
To view Potomac River temps vs. breaks/leaks: wsscwater.com/rivertemp.