Water main breaks expected as temperatures drop

MADISON, Wis. (WTMV) -- Madison Water Utility warned people on Tuesday to watch for more water main breaks as temperatures drop, with lows below zero.

The city has seen 69 water breaks since the beginning of 2019, with 51 in February alone. The breaks are not just caused by cold – fluctuations in temperature over the first two months of the year have made the problem worse.

Changes in temperature put pressure on water mains, especially older mains in the city. Madison has 300 miles of those older water mains.

"Madison is not a new city, it's had a water utility since 1882. So that means that we have a big spectrum of ages of water mains in the city. The ones we're most concerned about are actually the ones that we could call mid-century mains so ones that went into the ground in the '40s, '50s, '60s," said Amy Barrilleaux, a spokesperson for Madison Water Utility.

When a main breaks, several households in the area can be without water for at least four to six hours. Even after the break is fixed, neighboring homes can see discoloration in their water since minerals gets stirred up while the break is being repaired.

"If you think about that 69 water main breaks and the number of people impacted, let’s say 10 households per break, that brings you up to about 700 households that have been affected by water main breaks just in the first two months of 2019," Barrilleaux said.

Barrilleaux also said Madison Water Utility will warn people if their water is going to be shut off. She recommends people run extra water and fill up pots or jugs to make sure they have enough.

Signs of a water main break include water running the street and low water pressure. If you see any of those signs, call Madison Water Utility as soon as possible at (608) 266-4661.