2013 saw highest number of water main breaks in at least 33 years

January 7, 2014

Madison, WI – January 7, 2014 – Madison Water Utility crews repaired 306 water main breaks in 2013, up from 221 the year before. It’s the highest number of main breaks since the Utility began keeping records in 1980. The spike in main breaks appears to be due to a combination of extreme weather and aging water infrastructure.
 
As the ground freezes and thaws, soil expands and contracts, putting pressure on water pipes. Older pipes, particularly those made in the 1940s and 50s of a brittle material called spun cast iron, tend to break more often. Much of Madison’s water main infrastructure dates to those post-World War II boom years, and while the pipes have served the city well for more than six decades, they’ve now reached the end of their useful life.
 
Madison Water Utility is undertaking the aggressive goal of replacing or relining more than half our water mains, some 400 miles of pipe. In 2013, we spent $7.5 million on main replacement. We will ramp up to spending more than $12.5 million by the year 2020.  Madison is also the first city in the state to use water main relining technology, giving aging pipes new life at a lower cost than replacement.
 
In a climate that can be harsh and unpredictable, main breaks will always happen.  But Madison Water Utility is committed to making sure our water infrastructure is in the best possible condition, ready to be relied upon by every single person who lives, works or goes to school in Madison.
 
Attached is a map showing main breaks in Madison from 1980-2003, as well as a chart listing the number of main breaks for the last 33 years.