What to do if you suspect a water main break.
A water main break occurs when one of the pipes underground leading to your house bursts, creating a crack or hole in the pipe. This crack lets water escape out of the pipe, and lets dirt and debris in. With a water main break, there’s a risk that soil, rocks, and other materials could slip into the pipes, compromising the water that flows into your home with contaminants and other bacteria. Water main breaks aren’t the type of plumbing issue that can be fixed by a simple DIY remedy; and when not fixed quickly, they can lead to flooding and structural damage, and can contaminate your water supply. To minimize damage, and to keep your water supply clean, it requires immediate professional attention.
There are a few telltale signs of a water main break, including:
- Decreased water pressure
- Discolored water
- Odd smelling or tasting water
- Water pooling in your basement or yard
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, keep the following tips in mind to ensure that the break is addressed quickly and to prevent costly damage and minimize contaminated water in your home.
1. Call a plumber – and your water supplier
The faster you notify a plumber of a potential water main break, the faster the problem can be resolved with as little damage as possible. You should also call your water supplier to notify them of the break.
2. Decrease your household water usage
Using water to drink, cook, or wash clothes could expose you to the contaminants and bacteria that could come with a water main break. Even when run through a filter, this water may be unsafe to consume. Decreasing hot water in particular can also help prevent bacteria and contaminants from entering the hot water heater.
3. Use bottled water instead of tap water
The most foolproof way to ensure that you’re using healthy water is to use bottled water for cooking and drinking. Sometimes, your county may notify you of a nearby water main break and enact a boil water advisory. However, unless told by your county, you shouldn’t assume that boiling water will make it safe to use, making bottled water the best choice in most situations.
4. Run water once it’s fixed
When the break is repaired, you can start using tap water again – but you first have to flush out the current water in your house to ensure the potentially contaminated water is safely out of the pipes. Run faucets and showers for a few minutes and run the dishwasher and washing machine on empty cycles once or twice. Run hot water for a few minutes as well to make sure that the hot water heater empties of contaminated water as well and replace any water filters.