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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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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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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Thank You, Aqua Employees!

 

You turn on the faucet and water comes out. Sounds easy, right?

As easy as it seems, there is more that goes into getting that drinkable water from a fresh and natural source into your home - lots of pipes, water towers, reservoirs, and advanced water technology.

But it is more than technology and infrastructure; thousands of people across the country build their entire careers ensuring we all have water. These people, whether they are in the field, in the lab or behind the phones, spend their days making sure you can take a shower, cook your food, or spend time in the pool with your kids. A large labor force of talented men and women are working tirelessly, on weekends and late at night, to ensure that you have clean water for every day use.

With that in mind, the entire team at Aqua wants to send a deep thank you to all employees in our eight service states. Thank you for delivering unparalleled service even through long hours, plenty of service requests, and often-unpredictable weather conditions. Our company is strongly supported by a first-class family of staff that ensures Aqua customers can depend on quality when they turn the tap. As we celebrate Labor Day with a hot dog, family and friends; lets raise our glass (of water) and toast these unseen water bearers. Thank you for your service, labor, and loyalty.

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Get To Know Aqua: Executive Assistant Jennifer Knotts

Get to know Aqua and the employees that work day in and day out to provide quality customer service and reliable drinking water to approximately 3 million customers. In this week’s ‘Employee Highlight,’ we spoke to Executive Assistant, Jennifer Knotts. 

1. My name is… Jennifer Knotts. I am married to my husband, Shae, and I have two boys, Jared and Gavin. They are my whole world!

2. My title is... Executive Assistant 

3. That means I (do what?)… I do a little bit of everything, payables, payroll, planning events, doing administrative work for the office or Tom Bruns (Aqua Indiana President), handling customers, handling customer accounts for Western Hancock Utilities, Wymberly, Chimneywood and Heir Industries, serving as back up for Fran Paul when she is out of the office for Hendricks and Darlington, reviewing aging reports, doing certified letters for Shut Off Not for Nonpayments (SONP) and working with Field Services Representatives (FSR) out in the field. 

4. I work with water for a living, but my favorite water related activity is... Swimming. I really like going to water parks with my children.

5. If I had to pick 3 words to describe myself, they’d be… Kind, dedicated and organized.

6. Since I started working at Aqua, the most fun I experienced was… The 360 Team Building Dinner in Fort Wayne.  We had to work as a team and it was fun and enjoyable to see co-workers out of the office, laughing and having a great time!

7. The most interesting thing I’ve crossed off my “Bucket List” is… Getting a tattoo. Mine is a Dolphin.

8. My co-workers don’t know this, but I’m actually a big fan of... Disney, Eeyore and Little Mermaid are my favorite. Anytime I can go to Walt Disney World – I will. 

9. In the summer, you can find me... Outside hiking, coaching soccer or spending time with my family.

10. Favorite childhood toy was…. I did not really care for toys I enjoyed the big boxes my dad would bring home from work and we would build forts out of them.

11. When I was a kid, I always thought I’d grow up to be... FBI Agent

12. Do you have any pets? (Name, Age, Type) Yes, we have two Miniature Schnauzers. One boy 2 years old and one girl 4 years old. Dex and Dakota.

13. If I could be one movie character, I would be...because... A pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean. It just seemed like a great movie and so much fun!

14. My favorite “guilty pleasure” snack is… Chocolate and Peanut Butter (Twix, Reese’s, or Reese Sticks)

15. Don’t tell anybody, but I’ve always had a celebrity crush on… Johnny Depp

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