Why Water Mains Break

One of the biggest concerns for water utilities during extremely hot or cold weather is water main breaks. Water mains are expected to last a long time – as long as 100 years in many cases. But with many miles of pipe buried underground, it’s reasonable to expect a particular section of pipe will fail or break at some point. The challenge for water utilities is to work proactively to minimize the number of breaks and to respond effectively when a main does break.

While the oldest water mains were made of wood, by the late 1800s, a variety of iron pipe was being used to construct water distribution systems. Common iron varieties included cast and galvanized in the early part of the 20th Century, with galvanized used primarily for smaller diameter pipe. Cast iron pipe was used until the late 1950s when stronger, more flexible ductile iron pipe became common. Plastic pipe, including Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) became common in the 1970s. The primary difference between these two plastic pipes is that PVC is stiffer than HDPE, which is more flexible. Even though pipe is expected to last for decades, that doesn’t mean it won’t break at some point. While it is impossible to predict specific pipe breaks, we know that environmental conditions are a major factor in water main breaks.

In the northern and northeast areas of the country where winters are more extreme, cold soils and cold water combine to add stress to pipes, which can—and often do—result in breaks. Iron, like all metals, contracts as temperatures drop. This problem is more common when the source water is surface water (rivers and lakes). These waters are significantly affected by air temperature and can drop to near freezing in the winter. A temperature difference of just 10 degrees in water or air temperatures can cause pipes to contract or expand. Additional stress inside and outside the pipe occurs as temperatures near the freezing point, making the pipe vulnerable to breakage. Water temperature changes more slowly than air temperature changes so the impact of cold water on pipes can cause breakage to take place as many as a couple days after temperatures freeze. Water systems with groundwater sources (wells) have more stable water temperatures because the water is not affected by air temperatures, and therefore, not as significantly impacted. 

Just as pipes are adversely affected by cold weather conditions, they are also affected by severe heat. In some groundwater systems in the southern and southwestern states, the soils are like sponges and hold lots of water. However, during extended periods of hot temperature when high demands for water increases water withdrawal from the aquifers, the soil becomes very dry. In these conditions, the soil contracts and subsides, pulling away from the pipe and diminishing support for the water main. The absence of support for the main can cause it to break. This particular problem led the City of Houston, Texas to begin to convert its groundwater supply to surface water.

Although older mains are generally more susceptible to breaks, breaks can occur on newer mains. This is most likely the result of improper installation or a manufacturing issue with that particular section of pipe. By examining trends in water main breaks over time, a utility is better able to identify categories of pipe that are more prone to breaks, and thus proactively target that pipe for replacement. Aqua employs such tactics in determining which mains to replace. By the end of 2013, Aqua expects to have spent $170 million of its $325 million capital improvement program on water main replacement and associated work.

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Proper Hydration for Fitness

A new year and a healthy new you. That’s always the goal, right? This year, you’ll reach it. Sometimes it just takes a little advice from the experts to get you on track.

 

Luckily, Aqua had the chance to get some health and hydration tips from fitness expert Juliet Burgh, Vice President and Nutrition Director at Unite Fitness. Follow her hydration tips, and you’ll tackle your New Year’s resolution in no time!

 

 

 

1. Why is it important to stay hydrated while working out?

 

Hydration helps to support your entire system while working out. It will keep your muscles from cramping and will cool your body down, allowing you to work longer and harder.

 

 

2. How much and how often should the average person drink water?

 

The average person should make sure they are drinking at least half their body weight in ounces of water a day and an extra 16 ounces per hour of exercise.  

 

 

3. Is drinking water better than drinking a sports drink? Why or why not?

 

Yes, 100 percent. Those sugary drinks will make your blood sugar crash and will not fully hydrate you. They’ll actually make you thirstier at times. Sports drinks do have their place as a way to replenish salt, sugar and potassium ratios, but this is only for someone who is training for endurance (over 90 minutes at a time).

 

 

4. What effect does proper hydration have on recovery after working out?

 

It helps your body flush out toxins, which can build up in your body. It helps your muscles to recover and heal, as well as your organs to function properly.

 

 

5. Can proper hydration before working out help give you a boost at the gym?

 

Yes. You will feel more energized and limber if your body is properly hydrated. Muscles will not feel as stiff, which will allow you to have a better workout.

 

There you have it from the pros. Better hydration = better workouts, and a better you! Make water a part of the plan when you put your 2015 New Year’s resolution into action and make this year the year you stick to it! You can start by filling up a bottle and hitting the gym.  

 

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Prevent Frozen Pipes and Fix Leaks this Winter

January 4, 2018 – Don’t let Mother Nature or aging pipes wreak havoc on your home this winter. About 250,000 homes are severely damaged from burst, cracked or frozen water pipes each year – which is why it is essential to take precautions and fix leaks around your home. 

Toilets and faucets are the biggest culprits for leaks. Not only can they waste water, they can increase your water bill if they go undetected. To check for leaks, shut off all your faucets and appliances that use water. Read your meter, then read it again 20 minutes later. If your reading has changed, you have a leak.

If the temperature outside drops to about 10 degrees, you are also at risk for frozen pipes. Check out the video below and follow Fred Wags and Felicia Fluff as they show you around the Aqua house and teach you how to prevent frozen pipes.

 

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5 Water Stories of 2014

Happy holidays! After nearly 365 days of 2014, we reflect on some of the biggest stories of the year in the world of water.

The Polar Vortexes

The beginning of 2014 brought a slew of polar vortexes to many of our service states, where crews worked around the clock to repair broken mains and customer service representatives worked tirelessly to help customers prevent frozen pipes. The jaw-dropping cold even brought viral videos of people pouring out boiling water and it freezing on contact with the frigid air.

 Ice Bucket Challenge

One of the most heartwarming stories of the year, the ice bucket challenge drew international attention to raise awareness and money for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The campaign organized by the ALS Association went viral on social media from July to August and raised a total of $115 million in funding. 

 

Image via Flickr user Global Panorama

World's Largest Water Slide

On July 10, 2014, a Kansas City water park opened Verrückt (German for “crazy”), the world's tallest and fastest water slide. The water slide offers a plunge that is further than one off Niagara Falls and could rip the swim trunks right off of you. If you love water just as much as we do and enjoy being 168 feet off the ground and traveling at 40 to 50 miles per hour, this might be your favorite story!

Clear Frozen Lake 

A more recent story that went viral on the web captured two hikers in Slovakia appearing to walk on water. Watching the video more, viewers will see that the hikers aren't magicians but just walking on a crystal clear frozen lake. A little late to the 2014 party, but stunning enough to make the cut! 

40th Anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act

It might not be a story that went viral or made users “oooh” and “aaah,” yet celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act is a big milestone in US history. The act passed by Congress in 1974 protects public health by regulating the nation's public drinking water supply. Of all the water stories in 2014, we raise a glass and toast to tap!

Image via US Water Alliance 

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanza, Aqua wants to wish you and yours a very happy holiday. Enjoy the holiday season with family and friends celebrating the company of each other, reflecting on years past and planning for the years ahead. 

 

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What We're Thankful For

It's that time of year again! 
 
As we all sit around the dinner table for Thanksgiving with family and friends to recognize what we are most thankful for, the Aqua team would like to thank the people who make clean and accessible water a possibility: our employees. Their dedication to their trade helps build a stronger and more reliable water infrastructure and a closer bond with the customers we serve.
 
 
With winter weather approaching, our crews will work tirelessly to respond to emergencies and ensure water service through even the harshest of polar vortexes. We are thankful for our employees' hard-work and daily commitment to excellent service in some times unpredictable conditions, long hours and plenty of service requests.
 
Whether you work in the lab, at a call center, or out in the field, we can not thank you enough for your work. Happy Thanksgiving! 
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