Water Main Breaks

Water main breaks are unpredictable. A big factor is weather. The colder the weather is for an extended period of time, the more water main breaks occur. Breaks can also occur when there is a sudden increase in water pressure in a water main, such as when a fire hydrant is closed too suddenly.

Who To Call When Reporting a Break or Leak

Residents who want to report a water main break or leak should call our emergency call center 24/7 at 216-664-3060. When calling to report a break or leak, it is helpful for residents know what type of information we need in order for us to respond quickly. The information we need to know is:

  • The location – street name, address and community
  • Is there damage – Flooding, road damaged,
  • How much water are they seeing, from a minor trickle to a major flow

What Happens Once a Break is Reported

Once a break or leak is reported, an investigator will be dispatched to the area to investigate and determine the severity of the break. Some of the key conditions they are looking for include:

  • Is there a safety issue to critical care centers
  • Is it impacting a busy intersection or street
  • Is it causing a major service disruption to customers
  • Are there conditions making this a danger, such as icy conditions or a street depression?

The investigator may take the step of partially shutting valves in the area, to reduce the amount of flooding damage but still allowing some water service to customers until the repair crew can arrive.

Based on observations, the investigator will re-prioritize the leak, potentially as an emergency if warranted, and will put the area into a temporarily safe condition. The status of all active repairs is constantly assessed and prioritized by managers, who will dispatch the next available pipe repair crew based on priority.

What Happens During the Repair Process

When a pipe repair crew responds to a break, there are a series of steps they take in order to complete a repair. They will first begin by setting up a safety perimeter.  Next they will  locate the leak, often by drilling test holes. Once the break is located, the valves that deliver water to the broken water main will be turned off, either partially or completely. This may cause a temporary disruption in water service for residents and businesses in the area; however, when repairing a non-emergency break and if circumstances allow, our crews will go door to door and notify residents that the water service will be temporarily disconnected, allowing them some time to store water before it is turned off.

The crew then will begin digging to expose the broken water main. Once exposed, the crew will determine what type of repair can be made or if a section of the water main will need to be replaced. Sheeting may need to be placed in the excavation, the repair is made, and then water service is restored. The final step is filling in the hole and preparing it for the restoration process. A typical repair can take anywhere from 4-6 hours, depending on the type of repair and the location of the break.

What is the Restoration Process

Street restoration is normally completed at a later date. This is dependent on the time of year, available materials and the city in which you live. To complete the restoration process, concrete is poured into the hole to level it off and then asphalt is added to complete the repair process.   Water service is maintained during this part of the operation.