Water is a vital resource in our everyday lives. Bathing, cooking, cleaning; we use water multiple times a day and for so many things. Despite the fact that running water is such a fundamental resource, most people don’t give it a second thought. They simply turn on the tap and voila – it appears, as if by magic. The system that provides us with water is often taken for granted – until something goes wrong and a water line breaks. A water line break is a serious issue that can result in utter chaos. But what exactly happens when this problem occurs?

What Happens When a Water Line Breaks?

Below, we examine what happens when a water line breaks, including the causes, immediate effects, and long-term impacts.

What Causes a Water Line Break?

From natural forces to improper maintenance, there are several factors that can trigger a water line break. Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Old infrastructure: Older underground pipes are often made of materials that are susceptible to corrosion. With age, and due to constant use and exposure to regular wear and tear, older pipes can become vulnerable to leaks and breaks. Old pipes are susceptible to corrosion and often amplify the disruptive phenomenon known as water hammer, creating loud noises as water abruptly changes direction within the plumbing system.
  • Frigid temperatures: In locations where the climate dips below freezing – especially over prolonged periods of time – water lines can freeze. When the water inside the pipes freezes, it expands, which creates pressure on the pipes that can result in cracks and cause pipes to break.
  • Ground shifting: Natural forces, such as earthquakes and soil erosion, can cause the ground to shift. As the ground that surrounds water pipes moves, the pipes can become stressed and eventually, they can crack and break.

Immediate Effects of Water Line Breaks

When a water line break occurs, the impact can be immediate and far-reaching. Immediately after a water line break, some of the most common effects include:

  • Disrupted water supply: When a water line breaks, the supply of water to the affected areas is interrupted. Residential and commercial properties, as well as public services, can be affected. A water line break can cause a reduction in water pressure and affect your hot water tank as well leaving you with only cold water.
  • Water-damaged property: The water that escapes from a broken pipe can cause massive flooding. The water can engulf streets, homes, and businesses, causing serious damage from water flowing into structures and possessions.
  • Closed roadways: Broken water lines can also lead to road closures. Flooded streets can become impassable, resulting in treacherous travel conditions. Urban areas, in particular, suffer negative impacts; however, suburban and rural regions can also experience effects.

Response and Repair for Water Line Breaks

When a water line break occurs, in order to effectively mitigate the consequences, prompt response and repair are necessary. Response and repair can take the form of:

  • Emergency services: Local authorities, such as police departments and firefighters, as well as water utility companies, must act quickly to contain a water main break. Water valves have to be shut off, traffic on affected roadways needs to be diverted, and emergency measures need to be implemented in order to ensure the safety of the public.
  • Repairs: Experienced technicians will assess the damage, determining the extent and the necessary repairs. Water main repairs may include replacing damaged portions of the water lines, reinforcing the infrastructure, and/or addressing any other factors that may have contributed to the damage (ground shifting, etc.)
  • Communication: The public should be kept well-informed during a water line break. Officials will inform residents about the situation, including the duration of road closures and the time needed for repairs.

Long-Term Impacts

The effects of a water line break can continue long after repairs have been made. Possible long-term impacts include:

  • Contaminated water: Bacteria can get into the local water supply when a pipe breaks, causing waterborne diseases and the need to boil water.
  • Displacement: If widespread damage has occurred, residents in affected areas may be required to evacuate their homes temporarily. In severe cases, properties may even be condemned.
  • Mold growth: Mold growth can also occur after a water line break, which can cause further property damage and health implications.

Final Thoughts

Water line breaks are severe situations that require immediate attention. If you are ever subjected to such a crisis, it is imperative to stay informed of the situation and to follow advice and recommendations made by officials to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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