How water main breaks could end up costing you

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The Madison Water Utility repaired 306 water main breaks in 2013, up from 221 the year before

Credit: Madison Water Utility

UPDATED Tuesday, January 7, 2013 --- 5:03 p.m.

Those extra ten minutes in the shower could soon cost you, Wisconsin's harsh winters could hike up your water rates next year.

In 2013 alone 306 water mains broke in Madison, costing about a million dollars in repairs. The Madison Water Utility says it's a combination of old infrastructure and rough winters, but repairing some of those old mains will likely mean a rate hike for customers.

"You can imagine driving on a road that hasn't been resurfaced in 60 years. It would be crazy," says Amy Barrilleaux with Madison Water Utility.

Each time a water main ruptures crews are sent out in brutal temperatures to cut through the road, dig down to the main, patch it up, and refill the hole.

"That's a lot. It's a lot of things to do 300 times a year."

Amy Barrilleaux with the Madison Water Utility says 2013 had the most breaks since they started keeping record in 1980, and 2014 isn't off to a good start either. Already 30 breaks since the new year.

"We know this cant go on, we cant continue to have to fix this many mains per year."

So the solution is tackling the problem main by main.

"That's 400 miles of pipe, it's expensive, it takes time, but for us it's important to take care of Madison's water infrastructure."

She says because of how cold it gets in the winter, the ground freezing and thawing will manage to break about 100 mains every year, but the other 200 are likely breaking due to age and can be relined or replaced. Costing a pretty penny, that could be coming out of your wallet.

"If we're looking at spending eventually 12 million dollars on water mains, then we need to pay for that."

Barrilleaux says Madison Water Utility will be deciding how much they need to raise rates and will send that for approval by the Public Service Commission in the coming months.

"We plan on going to the PSC sometime next summer in the middle of 2014 and that's when we can expect to know how much it will go up."

Barrilleaux says Madison Water Utility spent $7.5 million replacing water mains in 2013 alone.


Posted Tuesday, January 7, 2013 --- 12:45 p.m.

The Madison Water Utility repaired 306 water main breaks in 2013, up from 221 the year before.

It's the highest number of main breaks since the Utility began keeping records in 1980.

The Utility says the spike appears to be due to a combination of the extreme weather and aging water infrastructure.

Older pipes, particularly those made in the 1940s and 50s, tend to break more often. Much of Madison's water infrastructure dates back to those years.

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