Extreme cold taking a toll on water meters, service laterals and water mains

February 5, 2014

In January, Madison Water Utility responded to the highest number of frozen meter calls for any month in at least the last decade. Last month, 38 customers had their water meters freeze and crack or burst. That number was 46 in all of 2013. We’ve also responded to dozens of calls about frozen laterals – the service line leading to a home from the main in the street.  And we repaired 92 water main breaks in January.
 
Our crews report that the current frost line appears to be 4-5 feet below ground, but as temperatures continue to plunge during the overnight hours, we expect that frost line to move deeper. We are conducting routine hydrant temperature checks to make sure the water in Madison’s mains and hydrants is well within the normal wintertime range. The city’s mains are generally buried about 6 feet below ground.
 
Tips for homeowners
 
Water meters and pipes:

  • Make sure your basement is properly insulated, and check for areas where cold air may be rushing in
  • Insulate pipes in unheated areas like crawl spaces, unheated garages, and attics.
  • Leave some heat on in unused areas of your home.
  • Never try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame.

Service laterals:
 
 If your home’s lateral service line has frozen in the past, it might be a good idea to run a pencil-thin stream of water during the times of day when you typically use very little water. If you’re planning to go out of town for a few days, you may want to call the utility and have your water service shut off at the curb. There is a $50 fee for restoring service.
 
If you are experiencing a problem with your water service, call the Water Utility dispatcher at (608) 266-4661

Photos: Examples of cracked and burst water meters recently pulled from Madison homes.

Contact:
  • For Media Inquiries - Contact Amy Barrilleaux, (608) 266-9129, abarrilleaux@madisonwater.org
  • For Water Service Problems - Dispatch, (608) 266-4661