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.

Share This Post:

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. 

 

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!

 

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. 

 

Share This Post:

Fun Ways to Get Your Kids Into The H20 Habit

By now you’ve probably done all your to-dos for the new school year. Shoes have been purchased, notebooks and pencils packed and lunch schedules finalized. One to-do that’s not so obvious is making sure your child is drinking enough water, and knows when enough is enough. Developing healthy water habits is crucial for staying energetic and alert, and can affect the dietary habits of your child for years to come. Here are some of our tips and tricks on how to get your kids into the H20 habit.

Invest in a fun water bottle or silly straws

 

Investing in a fun, reusable water bottle featuring your child’s favorite cartoon character makes drinking water far more interesting. Plus, your child can always go to the water fountain for a quick refill. And what about all those silly straws? There’s something more exciting about using a straw than simply drinking out of a cup. With all the new straw designs, the possibilities for creativity are endless.

Prepare tasty popsicles

 

After a long school day, it’s hard not to crave some sugar. Take advantage of your child’s sweet tooth by making water-based popsicles. Simply mix a little juice with tap water and treat your child to this tasty yet healthy snack. You can prepare the popsicles as soon as your child comes home and place them in the freezer during homework time. By the time your child completes all school assignments, the popsicles should be ready to eat and you can offer the snack as a perk.

Water Tracker 

 

Create a chart with every family member’s name and place a golden star sticker next the name of whoever drinks an eight ounce glass of H20. Keep track of how much water your child is drinking by the amount of stars earned at the end of each week.

Serve water before and after school

 

Replace sugary beverages like juice and soda with water. This is the simplest way to prevent temptation: reduce other available options. During breakfast be sure that your child drinks at least one glass of water to sustain hydration and energy during school hours. Not only can dehydration cause fatigue, but also it can also trigger various health issues. When your child comes home, fill a cup with tap water and place it nearby during homework time to make it easily accessible. Brainpower requires staying hydrated, and water is the perfect way to keep your child awake and alert.

Just add fruit! 

 

Add a few slices of fruit to tap water and instantly add some flavor and extra vitamins too! Squeeze some lemon for a fresh zesty taste or add in your child’s favorite fruits for a splash of sugar creating a healthy, sweet flavor without all the unnecessary ingredients and processing.

 

Share This Post:

Dog Days of Summer: Pet Hydration

With summer temperatures rising, we know nothing is more refreshing than a cool glass of water after a long and hot day. Your pet thinks so too. Heat affects animals of all sizes, just like us. While we may assume our pet’s survival instinct has the basic necessities of life covered, it’s our job as animal owners to ensure our cuddly creature is getting the hydration it needs. Here are some tips to make sure your furry friend is happy and hydrated: 

Make sure pets always have access to clean water

This crucial part to hydrating is so simple, it’s easy to miss. Things like a quick refill of fresh tap water throughout the day will help when it comes to hydration. Clean your pet’s water bowl daily, in order to avoid any harmful bacteria. If a water bowl is dirty, an animal may not want to drink out of it, causing dehydration.

Close the toilet lid

Speaking of harmful bacteria’s, make sure to close the lid on your toilet! Dogs or cats may gravitate towards the toilet bowl, thinking of it as a porcelain water fountain full of fresh water. However, all the germs and bacteria make it one ugly cesspit that’s not suitable for a water bowl. Do your pet a favor and close the lid after you’re finished using the restroom! 

Bring water when exercising

Giving your pets water after exercising can dramatically prevent dehydration. While it may be easier to wait until you get home, pets need water just like we do after a lengthy run or even a long walk. Bring water along for your pet if you know they’ll be exerting themselves. Some stores offer to-go water bottles and bowls to make your life a little easier. Fill the bottle up with some tap water and you’re ready to hit the road.

 

Check your water bowl throughout the day

We know your house isn’t in Death Valley, but water can still dry up, especially during the summer. Check your water bowl throughout the day to make sure none of it is evaporated. In case you can’t check on it during the day, consider getting two water bowls, located throughout the house. Fill them up with tap water every day and leave with a peace of mind knowing that your animal will have access to water while you’re gone.

Certain illnesses require more attention

Whether your pet has a kidney disorder or is elderly, they may require special attention in the hydration department. If your pet has cancer, an infectious disease, is pregnant, or nursing, make sure that they are getting plenty of water.

Look for signs of dehydration

Besides a dry nose and mouth along with sunken eyes, a simple skin test will usually tell you if your pet is dehydrated. Pick up loose skin around the shoulder blade area and gently pull up. Once you release it, the skin should go back to where it was rather quickly; this means that your pet is properly hydrated. However, if the skin slowly moves back, or doesn’t go back normally, then it’s time to take a trip to the vet to see why your pet isn’t drinking enough.

Share This Post:

5 Things You Didn’t Know Needed Water

1. Chocolate

Chocolate is many things – delicious, indulgent, maybe even addictive – but it’s also a heavy water user. Over 2,400 gallons are used to process just one pound of chocolate. 

 

2. Your Laptop

The average laptop uses the water of 70 washing-machine loads before it ever reaches your desk – including some stuff called “ultrapure water”.

 

3. Your iPhone battery 

Calling it “juice” isn’t that far off – charging a cell phone uses half a liter of water at the power plant supplying the electricity.

 

4. Your clothes

We’re not talking about throwing them in the washing machine – before you ever put it on, a cotton shirt uses 1,000 gallons of water in its manufacturing process, and a pair of jeans uses 900 during production.

 

5. Your car 

Building a new car uses a whopping 39,000 gallons of water, including the tires, which consume 2,000 gallons a set.

Share This Post: