LWS Frequently Asked Questions

Lincoln Water System Frequently Asked Questions

Water Service Information

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What is a water service pipe? Who owns it and maintains it?

The water service is the pipe that begins with the connection to the water main in the city right-of-way and comes into your property. This service line has two valves on it to allow your water to be turned on or off. The first valve, called a curb stop, is generally located near the property line and is normally housed by a cylinder with a cap on it called a curb box or stop box. The other valve is located in your home next to the water meter. Other valves may be near plumbing fixtures in your home such as sinks and toilets. Repairs to anything on the service other than the meter is the responsibility of the property owner.

Keeping the valve at the meter in good working condition will assure that you will be able to turn your water off in an emergency, such as a water pipe break. If this valve at the meter does not work in an emergency, call 402-441-7571 so that Lincoln Water System can shut your water off at the stop box, which requires a stop box key. Lincoln Water System and most licensed plumbers have these keys.

Why is my water off?

  • A water main may be shut down because personnel are working in the area. Prior notification is given before water is turned off for scheduled work.
  • Service may be terminated because of failure to pay your water bill. Contact Customer Service at 402-441-7533 for past-due accounts. Other reasons for shutoff include failure to gain entrance to check, repair, install or replace the water meter; failure to install a backflow preventor; or due to a leak in the water service line. Please call the telephone number listed on your door hanger or correspondence.

    Related: Disconnection Policy

  • If you live in an apartment, trailer court, condominium or multiple dwelling residence, contact the property manager to make sure they do not have the water shut off for maintenance purposes.

Why is my water “rusty” or “muddy?”

Many of the water mains in Lincoln are constructed of cast iron. Generally, short periods of rusty water may appear after a main has been shut down for repair or if a nearby hydrant has been used. You may try running cold water for several minutes (about 10) to clear the rusty water out of your service. If you are still experiencing rusty water, please call Lincoln Water System at 402-441-7571.

Other sources of rust could also be from your own service. If you have any galvanized internal lines or fittings, you can expect to have periodic episodes of discolored water, especially after a period of non-use. The water heater can also be a source of rusty-water problems. If only the hot water is rusty, that indicates that the problem lies in the water heater.

Does Lincoln Water System test the water?

The USEPA and Nebraska Drinking Water Program establish the safe drinking water regulations that limit the amount of contaminants allowed in drinking water. As the regulations require, Lincoln Water System routinely tests your water for numerous contaminants. The test results are published in the Annual Drinking Water Quality Report, which shows the concentrations of detected substances in comparison to the regulatory limits.

Lincoln Water System lab

How can I get the water tested at my home or business?

To have your water tested if there is not a problem with discolored water or health impacts contact the State of Nebraska Department of Health Lab at 402-471-2122. (Fees may apply.)

Where can I find information about the water service on my property?

Call the Diggers Hotline at 1-800-331-5666 or 811 to locate water mains and services prior to digging.

View the City of Lincoln tap records for information about your service line, including what material it is made of and its length. More Info on Service Line Look-up

Frozen Pipes Information

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What are some common reasons for frozen pipes?

Water pipes will usually be more susceptible to freezing when the outdoor air temperature is below freezing for more than a few days. Special attention should be given when the outdoor air temperature does not rise above zero degrees during the daytime hours. Some reasons include:

  • Unheated basement where the water meter and pipes are located.
  • Uninsulated pipes which are against outside walls.
  • Open windows near water meters or pipes.
  • Openings or cracks which allow cold outside air near the water meter or pipes.
  • Water meter pipes enclosed or boxed in against outside wall.

How do I know if my pipes are frozen?

Generally, when a pipe feeding a certain fixture (such as a shower, sink or toilet) freezes, you will no longer be able to get water through that fixture. This would be the case if the pipe is frozen solid.

Why do frozen water pipes break?

When water freezes within a pipe, the volume of the water expands. That is, the same amount of water takes up more space as a solid than as a liquid. This causes the pipes to expand and possibly break at a weak point. This may not be noticed immediately, however. The pipes may thaw from the inside out with the pipe actually breaking only when the full water pressure is restored.

Do only pipes inside the house freeze?

No. Not only is your inside plumbing susceptible to freezing, but your water service could also be subject to freezing. This is caused by frost in the ground encasing your service in ice, thereby freezing your service. This is especially typical of shallow (less than five feet deep) services.

What should I do if my pipes freeze?

If your pipes freeze, your best course of action is to call a licensed master plumber. Improper thawing could cause your pipes to burst. There are, however, some procedures that you can follow to try to thaw them. The more quickly the problem is recognized, the better the chances are that damage will be minimized. Some techniques for thawing frozen pipes include:

  • If possible, expose a boxed-in area to the inside heat.
  • Use a heat gun. However, be extremely careful as the heat from the heat gun will ignite any wood or paper it contacts.
  • DO NOT use torches to thaw pipes!
  • Rubbing the pipes with warm, damp rags may slowly thaw the line.
  • If you do not have water for an extended period of time, special attention should be given to water heaters and boilers.

How can I prevent my pipes from freezing?

There are many ways to help prevent your water pipes from freezing in extreme weather. Some suggestions include:

  • Keeping the water meter area or pipes exposed to outside walls heated.
  • Providing ventilation to pipes allowing warmer air to circulate around them.
  • Insulating your pipes.
  • Caulking and sealing any openings near your water pipes.
  • Keeping some tap water running. (Moving water is more difficult to freeze, understanding however, this will affect your bill.)
  • If no one will be home for an extended period in extreme weather, it is best to turn your main valve off and have a plumber drain your system. This way, there will be no water in your pipes to freeze. Even if your pipes have not frozen in the past, severe cold can cause electricity blackouts and thereby disable your furnace. Winterizing your system will assure that your pipes do not freeze.

Other Questions

Call Lincoln Water System at 402-441-7571 with questions in regard to:

  • Backflow Preventers
  • Bad tasting water or ill-effects from drinking water
  • Obtaining hydrant meters
  • Low water pressure/water pressure information
  • Puddles or wet spots in the right-of-way (service leaks or main breaks)
  • Request for speakers on water related subjects
  • Request to have water turned off temporarily ($25 charge to turn off and $25 charge to turn back on)