City of Lincoln
2007 Media Releases
Last summer’s dry weather and this winter’s deeper than normal frost conditions have likely contributed to a tripling in water main breaks in Lincoln in the last few months. From November 1, 2006 to February 21, 2007, there were 117 breaks compared with 35 in the same period last year and 44 the previous year.
“The number of water main breaks during the winter is the highest on record,” said Mayor Coleen J. Seng. “The Lincoln Water System (LWS) takes disruption of water service very seriously. City crews have been working day and night to fix these problems and restore full service to customers, regardless of the weather conditions.” LWS officials said some of the breaks have been difficult to locate because water does not always surface at the point of the break due to deep frost conditions.
Steve Owen, LWS Superintendent of Water Distribution, said most breaks occur on older water mains, but corrosive soil could also be a factor in some areas. Water mains weaken over time as soil expands and contracts during severe weather conditions, such as extended drought or frost.
“We suspect that previously mild winters have caught up with the water system this year,” said Owens. “The combination of the dry summer and the deeper frost depths have caused the unprecedented number of water main breaks this year.”
LWS has about 1,200 miles of water mains and averages about 132 water main breaks for an entire year. The Public Works and Utilities Department has increased funding by ten times for the replacement of water main projects since the early 1990s. In the current fiscal year, $2.7 million is budgeted for water main replacement projects. Twenty separate projects that will replace more than five miles of water mains are now in the design phase or under contract. Owen says breaks that occur this winter will be evaluated with past information to determine future projects.
Owen said the area of 10th and “D” streets has had multiple water main breaks this winter, making it a priority for replacement in the next year. Crews have installed additional valves on this water main, so future breaks can be better isolated to reduce disruptions of service.
Owen said the same conditions that have lead to increased water main breaks also are leading to more water service leaks. While the City owns and maintains the water mains, the pipe that connects a building to the water main is owned and maintained by the property owner. Owen said homes and business that have water services more than 70 years old are at particular risk of developing leaks in the future. He said that as a preventive measure, property owners may want to consider replacing old and deteriorated water services before they leak and cause additional damage and expense. LWS can assist in assessing the age of a water service and its possible condition.
For more information on LWS, visit the City Web site at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: water).