Important Information about Water Main Breaks
How do I report a water
To report a water main break or other water-related emergency,
please call 703-698-5613, TTY 711, or e-mail
What happens when a
water main breaks?
When a main break occurs, Fairfax Water’s top priority is to
stop water loss and return service to the affected customers as
quickly as possible. Once a possible water main break is
reported, a crew is immediately dispatched to the site to
determine if it is a main break and to set up safety equipment.
If there is a main break, the crew immediately locates and
closes nearby valves to isolate the broken main from the water
system, closing the valves closest to the break to minimize
service disruptions to customers. Once the valves are shut off,
Fairfax Water notifies Miss Utility of the impending excavation
so the water main and other utilities near the water main break
can be identified. Repair work cannot begin until all other
utilities in the area are identified so the crew does not damage
After the utility lines are marked, excavation can begin.
Construction equipment helps to remove most of the ground above
the pipe and a pump helps to remove water from the excavated
trench. Most Fairfax Water pipes are buried from three to 10
feet below ground, so depending on the depth, additional
measures may need to be taken to ensure the safety of the
workers, which can extend the time it takes to repair a break.
Once the pipe is exposed, crews can begin to repair or replace
the broken main. When the repair is complete, crews open up a
nearby hydrant to flush air and debris from the pipe before
reconnecting it to the system. It can take a while for large
mains to refill and restore system pressures. Next, the repair
crew backfills the trench with gravel and prepares the road for
patching. Workers use cold mix asphalt as a temporary patch
until Fairfax Water’s appointed contractor can permanently
repave the road.
We recognize the inconvenience that a main break can cause and
always tries to restore service as quickly as we can. If
possible, crews will use a hose feed to provide water service to
areas affected by the main break. Fortunately, Fairfax Water has
fewer main breaks than many other utilities and we repair the
breaks and restore service in an average of four hours. But as
you can see, repair times can be affected by many factors and it
is vital that our crews take the time to execute each step
properly to avoid further damage and to ensure the safety of the
community and the workers.
What causes water main
Water main breaks are caused by a variety of factors, including
freezing or severe weather, pipe corrosion, soil conditions,
age, ground movement, or being struck by heavy equipment.
Fairfax Water’s distribution system is relatively young, which
minimizes main breaks caused by age. Although the Fairfax Water
system is still young, the Board of Directors dedicates funding
on an annual basis to ensure that the system can be upgraded and
replace as needed without placing a financial or service burden
on our customers. As a result, Fairfax Water experiences fewer
water main breaks annually than many other water utilities.
Is there anything I
need to do when my water service is restored?
In many cases it is necessary to interrupt water service to
homes in the area around a water main break. Unfortunately,
interrupting your water service may stir up sediment in the pipe
and cause water containing this sediment to enter nearby homes.
If the water service is interrupted in your neighborhood, you
can help prevent sediment clogs by removing the aerators from
sinks and washing machines and running the water for a few
minutes to flush your pipes.