Winter Weather impacts on Waterlines.
This week Eastsound Water has had dozens of calls from folks with frozen pipes. It’s been several years since we’ve had these types of temperatures.
Historically the water system sees a significant spike in water demand AFTER THE THAW COMES. Water expands about 9% when frozen, this expansion often splits water lines. When the ice in the water line melts, the split pipe begins to leak.
If you experience frozen pipes, it is important to be able to shut off your water service before thawing the pipe. While a split pipe is absolutely a hassle, the problem is magnified when the pipe starts leaking. Since the mid-1970’s plumbing codes have required that homes have a “whole house shut off valve.” Do you know where yours is? It might be in a utility closet, it might be in a crawl space, or it might be in a box outside your foundation.
From the Water System’s perspective, our biggest concern is for vacant properties that have had only minimal heat on during this cold spell. No one is home to notice that water has stopped flowing because of a frozen pipe. No one is home to notice that after the thaw there is a significant leak.
Eastsound Water’s EYE ON WATER system can send members leak alerts, which can be helpful. However, I want to remind members that this system reports in ONCE A DAY. This means a leak might persist for up to 24 hours prior to being reported. A lot of property damage can occur from a leak that persists undetected for hours.
Hopefully, you shut off your water service prior to leaving the house unattended for the winter. This way if a pipe fails, only the water in the service line will leak out. If your home is unoccupied and the water service was left on, it might be wise to have someone check the house to make sure there are no frozen pipes or leak.
During sub-freezing events like we are experiencing, some members open a faucet to a slow drip. The theory is that moving water in the pipes is less likely to freeze. Water coming out of the underground service line is also at 55 degrees, so it is bringing some warmth into the exposed pipe while it works its way to the dripping faucet. In ideal situations, where pipes are insulated and have heat tape applied, this practice is unnecessary. But in older homes, RVs, manufactured homes, and such, perhaps it is a prudent preventative measure.
Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of this practice is that your water meter, sensing “continuous flow” will begin reporting that your service has a potential leak. Eastsound Water has seen a significant “spike” in leak reports, many of which turn out to be intentional “freeze protection” dripping faucet efforts. This makes Eastsound Water’s new metering system’s leak detection feature less effective.
If Eastsound Water’s EYE ON WATER system detects a leak at your property, we will attempt to call you. If unsuccessful we will go out and shut your water off at the water meter, and report our actions to you via email. But Eastsound Water is not the “first line of defense” for your property. We have found that it is important to identify and respond to these leaks as quickly as possible. Just a handful of frozen pipe leaks can more than double the system-wide demand for water. In some cases, frozen pipe leaks have exceeded our production capacity and begun to drain down our storage tanks.
The “worst case” scenario is major cold weather AND extended power outages. While these are rare, they are another reason to SHUT YOUR WATER OFF, when you’re leaving home for an extended period.
Eastsound Water has winterizing tips posted on our website: