Cities around the state have been dealing with broken water mains linked to the extended cold period — and now the problem has spread up the pipeline. Water lines heading into homes have been freezing, and it’s the home owner’s responsibility.
Megan Murphy is the spokesperson for the City of Cedar Rapids Utilities. “Its that continuous cold where the frost line moves further and further down, which overtakes that pipe and it just freezes in place,” Murphy says. The building code now dictates that water pipes are buried five to six feet deep, but she says in some older homes the pipe may only be buried three feet deep and as the frost line falls, the pipes freeze. Homes built before 1970 are most likely to have pipes that are not buried as deep.
Murphy says they’ve been getting calls from residents, and she then directs them to call a certified plumber to work on the problem. “They have been working to defrost it slowly using warm water through a little injection…sometimes they have been able to thaw it, sometimes they do have to dig it up,” Murphy says. She says you know you’ve likely got a problem if the water is not working in your house, but your neighbors still have water.
There is something you can do to try and prevent the freeze up. “Leave a little drip of water in a faucet. Put a bucket underneath so you can use that water to water plants,” Murphy says. “Keeping the water moving through your pipes is what will keep water from freezing.”
The city has had trouble with its portion of the water pipeline too. “January was unfortunately a record-breaking month. We nomrally have about 14 water main breaks and we had 41,” according the Murphy. “Already February is well on its way to being record breaking as well.” Other cities large and small across the state are reporting the same problems with water main breaks and water line freeze ups. Des Moines has set a record with over 170 water main breaks just in January. Students at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City missed two days of classes after a water main on campus broke Sunday.