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Get Informed | Broken Water Line

What is a Broken Water Line?

A broken water line is a failure in the integrity of the distribution system servicing your home. This may include the water main, the lateral from the main to your home, and the piping within your home. If you are a city water customer, the city water main distribution piping is generally the responsibility of the water authority, company, or local agency. However, the lateral servicing the home and the piping within the home is the responsibility of the building owner or customer. Therefore, it is the customer's responsibility to know the type and condition of the lateral and water piping within the home. If you are on a private water system, you are the owner of the water source, treatment system, and the complete distribution system. In many cases, these problems are caused when a homeowner or contractor digs without conducting an 811 call (USA: Call before you dig).

How does a Broken Water Line become a problem?

A broken water line decreases the integrity of the distribution system and results in water loss or leakage from the system and a decrease in water use efficiency and can cause low pressure in the distribution system. Water distribution leaks result in wasting water, increasing monthly water statements or bills, increasing chlorination demand, causing aesthetic issues, increasing energy cost, and potentially exposing the customers to conditions that could violate a primary health standard, cause aesthetic problems, or cause erosion and damage to lawns and even roads.

Note: This website is focussed on water supply but problems with waste water disposal can affect the water supply, especially with broken water lines. Water supply lines usually run under pressure and the pipes are completely full while waste-water lines use gravity to move the waste water and the pipes are usually not full. This means that water tends to leak out of the pressurized water supply lines and to infiltrate into the waste water lines (which creates what the sewage treatment plants call a hydraulic load meaning that the sewage treatment plant has a greater volume of sewage to treat because of the infiltration. However, waste-water lines can break too and release wastewater into the ground. If there are water supply lines nearby, some of that contamination (usually microbial) can get into broken water supply lines even when still under pressure (which is why it is best to keep as wide a separation as possible between outdoor buried water supply lines and waste water lines; water mains and sewage mains are usually on opposite sides of a street). Improperly operating or overloaded on-site septic systems can also contaminate water supply lines. You should be aware, not only of your water supply systems, but also your wastewater disposal system. Ideally, the two should never mix but if they do, you could be the source of the contamination in your drinking water.

What are the Health Risks for a Broken Water Line?

The primary health concern related to a broken water line is the exposure of the drinking water to pathogens that may be naturally-occurring within the soils around the piping (or from improperly operating waste-water systems), such as: E.Coli, Viruses, protozoans, and other Waterborne Pathogens.

Get Tested | Broken Water Line

Awareness is the best tool to detect a problem with the water distribution system. If you are a city water customer, you should know the location of the shut-off valve to your home, the location of the lateral, and the type of piping in your home. The piping in your home should be inspected for leaks and if any or part of the piping consists of lead piping or piping that shows significant evidence of corrosion, the piping should be changed. You should review the annual Consumer Confidence Report from your water supplier and we would recommend that you clean the aeration taps on your faucets monthly. If you are on a private system that uses a water well, spring, or surface water source, you will need to know the make model and capacity of the pump and motor, location of the collection system, and the components of your system which you should regularly inspect. If you notice wet areas around your "shut-off valve", "lateral", and "distribution piping" and/or you are experiencing low water pressure or discolored water or sediment, you may have a leak in the distribution system. If you are experiencing bluish-green water, greenish water, or there is evidence of chemical scales, there may be Corrosion within the distribution system. If your water has microbial contamination, check your waste-water disposal system too.

Level 1 | Observational Self-Testing

Notes on Level 1 Testing for a Broken Water Line

Screening for this potential problem requires both knowledge and awareness. You must educate yourself on the components of both your supply and disposal systems and determine which components are your responsibility. In addition to being informed, you must bother to look and take note. Does the drinking water appear dirty or discolored, has there been a change in the water pressure, are there wet spots in the yard or in the general area around the water line, shut-off valve, or distribution piping servicing your home? If you get a monthly water bill we recommend keeping track of your monthly water usage. If there is a significant spike that is not related to a known use, this may be evidence that you have a leak in the system.

Observations for a Broken Water Line

The signs of a broken or leaky water line may include:

  • A metered customer may note an increase in the monthly water bill and water usage.
  • There may be a wet spot or saturated area in the lawn where the water shut-off valve or piping is located.
  • There will likely be a change in the water pressure and for larger leaks you may note the presence of dirty or discolored water or sediment that includes clay, silt, and sand and, in some cases, very small or fine gravel.
Try Our Level 1 Drinking Water Self-Diagnostic Tool
Have water issues? Answer our self-diagnosis questionnaire from your observations to get an initial diagnosis. Then follow our recommended steps to remediate your issue.
Self-Diagnostic Tool

Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself Water Testing

Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Testing Kit. After you’ve done Level 1 Testing, Level 2 Testing can confirm if your observations are correct. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment (see below) or continue to Level 3 Testing.

Notes on Level 2 Testing for Broken Water Line

The only real screening method tools would be to monitor your water usage and pressure within your distribution system. If you do not have a "flow meter," consider installing a flow meter and pressure gauge and monitoring the system pressure. Many flow meters permit the data to be sent to a datalogger or computer so you can track your water usage. If you are a city water customer and notice a problem with discolored water or a significant reduction in pressure, we suggest documenting this condition with our Self-Test Web App and photos and then informing your water supplier. If you manage the system, we suggest you visually inspect the system to attempt to understand the cause for the reduced pressure or discolored water. It is important to note that scale formation and corrosion can cause partial clogging of pipes and screens that can decrease water pressure without an actual break in the water line.

Recommended Products

Level 3 | Informational Water Testing

Level 3 Testing is done through an accredited Water Testing Laboratory. With Level 3 Testing, you can order a testing kit that is used to prepare your sample and submit it to the lab. By utilizing a lab, you have the assurance that a certified water expert had analyzed your water sample. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment options (see below) or continue to Level 4 Testing - Certified Testing.

Level 3 | Informational Water Testing

There is not a specific informational water test related to a broken pipe, but there are water quality testing services to check the quality of the water after a broken or clogged pipe has been repaired or tested if you believe that the cause of the break was related to either Corrosive or Scale-Forming water. Corrosive water causes the piping to physically decompose and Scale-Forming water is associated with a build-up of chemical scale or coatings in the piping of the system.

Level 4 | Certified Water Testing

A Level 4 Certified Test Test uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home to prepare the water sample and then works with an accredited laboratory in order to certify your test results. This type of testing not only gives you the highest level of assurance in the accuracy of your test results, but can also be used as a document in legal cases. For Baseline Testing, we recommend that you use Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 4 Testing for a Broken Water Line

There is not a specific test to certify an issue with a broken water line, but there is certified testing that can be done to ensure that, after the broken line was repaired, the water meets drinking water standards. This testing, at a minimum, should include: pH, conductivity, Total Dissolved Solids, chlorine (free and total) for city water customers, and, in addition, Turbidity, Total Coliform, E. coli, and a standard plate count for well owners. If you need assistance finding a certified laboratory, please Contact our team.

Get Treatment | Broken Water Line

For most water line breaks or leaks, treatment is not part of the solution, but if the failure was caused by corrosion, microbiologically induced Corrosion, or s in the piping, it is likely that some form of treatment may be needed. In most cases, the piping will need to be repaired or replaced with a material that meets NSF standards.

Short-Term Treatment

In the short term, this problem is normally associated with "no water conditions" or "boil water advisories. In many cases, it is wise to follow the advisories and use an alternative potable water source. Do not rely on a point-of-use treatment system or a basic UV Disinfection system during these periods.

Recommended Short-Term Water Treatments
Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Submit a Request for Consultation with the KnowYourH20 Team. Contact Us

Long-Term Treatment

For the long term, the system should be evaluated and investigated and the cause of the leak or low water pressure issue should be identified. Repairs or modifications may require a piping or valve change, improving pipe bedding, rerouting piping, and, in some cases, installing a water treatment system if the water is Corrosion or Scale-Forming Water.

Recommended Long-Term Water Treatments
Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Recommendation: Seek Advice from a Local Professional (Customized Solution). Contact Us

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