What is a water main break and what causes them?
A water main break is a rupture of a water pipe. The water main pipe is the large pipe that brings water into your home or business.
Water main breaks can be caused by many things, including:
- Age or corrosion of the pipe
- Poorly compacted backfill around the pipe
- Freeze and thaw cycles
- Heavy equipment traffic or construction activity near the pipe
- Pipes that are made of materials that are susceptible to corrosion or wear and tear
- Changes in water pressure
- Ground movements, such as from an earthquake or landslide
- Construction activity near the water main pipe
How to identify if you have a water main break on your property
If you see water gushing from the ground or from an open fire hydrant, it could be a water main break. Other signs of a water main break include:
- A sudden decrease in water pressure
- Dirty or muddy water coming from the tap
- Water coming out of cracks in foundations, walls, or floors
- Unusual sounds coming from pipes
If you think you may have a water main break, it’s important to act quickly to avoid serious damage to your property.
Steps to take if you have a water main break on your property
If you have a water main break, you should:
1. Turn off all appliances that use water in your home or business, including the washing machine, dishwasher, and ice maker.
2. Do not use any plumbing fixtures, such as toilets, sinks, or showers.
3. Contact your water utility company right away to report the problem and find out what to do next.
4. If you have a sump pump, make sure it is working properly and has a backup power source in case of an outage.
5. If the water is coming into your home or business, try to contain it as much as possible. Place towels or rags around leaks to soak up water and prevent further damage.
6. Move any valuables or important documents to a safe, dry place.
7. If the break is on your property, you may be responsible for repairing it. Contact a licensed plumber to make the repairs.
8. If you have flood insurance, contact your insurer to start the claims process.
9. After the flooding has subsided, thoroughly clean and dry all wet materials and items. These items can develop mold and mildew if they are not dried properly.
We know that dealing with a broken pipe and flooding can be very stressful. We hope that this information is helpful and that you are able to quickly resolve the issue. Thank you for your time.
San Francisco City’s role in responding to water main breaks
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is responsible for the maintenance and repair of water mains throughout the City. In the event of a water main break, SFPUC crews will respond as quickly as possible to assess the situation and make repairs. The City also has a contractor on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist with large or complex repairs.
Prevention tips for avoiding water main breaks
There are a number of things that property owners can do to help prevent water main breaks, including:
- Regularly inspecting and maintaining your water main
- Avoiding construction or excavation near water mains
- Reporting any leaks or cracks in water mains to the SFPUC
If you have any questions about water main breaks or how to prevent them, please contact the SFPUC.