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Posted on: February 5, 2019

Why do water main breaks occur?

Water main break at the intersection of North Main and Third Streets in Jamestown

The BPU Water Distribution System:

A water distribution system is an interconnected network of pipelines with larger transmission lines and smaller local distribution lines that branch and loop to carry water to homes and businesses in our water territory.  Valves located throughout the system control both the flow and pressure.  Water tanks/reservoirs hold water and regulate water pressure throughout the system.  Fire hydrants are part of the water distribution system.


A water main:

Is an underground pipe that delivers water to the customer's service pipe and into their home or business.


Why do water main breaks occur?

Water main breaks can  happen at any time of the year but most occur during extreme weather conditions.  It is most common to see system leaks and main breaks when the weather is frigid, when both air and water temperatures drop.  Air temperature at or below freezing causes the ground above a pipe to freeze, increasing stress on a pipe. Hot, dry weather also can take a toll; ground shifts and the increased volume and pressure can also stress water mains.


Other factors that cause main breaks:

Most breaks occur in iron water mains.  Water mains installed before 1980, are for the most part, made of iron.  Iron has a tendency to crack when it expands or contracts due to temperature changes.  When the ground shifts into the brittle iron mains, they can crack.

Older pipes are not cement-lined and can corrode inside and out.

The break rate for pipes increases after 60 years.  A previous pipeline break, excavation or nearby construction activity often erodes soil around water mains, which can cause breaks.


What should you do if you see a water main break?

Call our BPU Customer Service Office during regular business hours at 661-1660.  If BPU Offices are closed, call our emergency report line at 661-1640.


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