Water Main Breaks Back To Normal

This past summer, the City of Houston saw near record numbers of water main breaks due to the high temperatures and lack of rain. After getting a bit of a break during the fall, crews are back at it again as colder temperatures are causing breaks as well.

 

Sylvan Schurwanz stands out on his porch and sees a big mess one house over near the sidewalk. Water gushes from underneath the ground and runs down the street near his Meyerland home. He found out about the pipe rupture from a neighbor, but so far it hasn't created any problems.

"Other than the mess and the low water pressure, not that we know of yet."

For much of the summer, the number of water main breaks in Houston hovered around a thousand. There were so many, crews couldn't keep up and outside contractors were called in to help. Fast forward five months later: it's happening all over again, but for a different reason.

"You're never ever going to have zero water main breaks. They're always going to occur. When infrastructure goes into the ground at some point it's going to break. When you've got a large metropolitan area such as Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth New York or Chicago, there's always something that needs to be repaired."

That's Alvin Wright, spokesman for the public works department. He says bursting pipes are just a normal part of city life. The ground shifts and pipes break during extreme hot weather and during extreme cold weather. What made this past summer  abnormal was the lack of rain.

"We're back to what our normal water main breaks are, and that's somewhere between 150 to 175 pending repairs per day."

What he means is, on any given day, there are at least 150 pipes that need to be repaired or replaced. It doesn't mean 150 new breaks.

"Let's say you repair fifty water main breaks today.  While you're repairing those fifty water main breaks, another forty gets broken. Right?  So now you're going to be behind and every single day it's going to continue to be more and more and more. Some days it will be less and some days it will be more."

 As a crew worked on fixing that break near Meyerland, homeowner Raymond Foote also watched from his driveway. He told me it's a new year and there and he's not going to worry about a little water leak.

Foote: "Nah not really not today, lots of football games on."

Stamps: "That's what you're worried about?"

Foote: "Yeah." (laughs)

Moments later, Foote went back into the house to turn on the game.