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8570 Executive Park Avenue
    Fairfax, VA 22031
Main: 703-698-5600
    Customer Service: 703-698-5800
After Hours / Emergencies: 703-698-5613
    TTY: 711

Detecting Leaks

Winter Water Tips


Your Home's Plumbing


Many customers are unsure about where Fairfax Water’s system ends and their home plumbing begins. Water meters and their settings are owned and maintained by Fairfax Water. Your plumbing includes all of the pipes and fixtures on your property, from the meter or valve near the street to the faucets inside your home. Here are a few important components to be familiar with:


Main Water Valve


This valve is normally located where the water line enters your home through the foundation. You can use it to shut off the water in an emergency or when you are making plumbing improvements. It can also be turned off while the property is vacant to prevent water damage that unforeseen leaks might cause. To make sure this valve works properly, turn it off and verify that the water flow to your fixtures has stopped completely. When the valve is turned back on, it should be opened fully to allow unrestricted water flow.


Water Service Lateral


This is the pipe that runs underground from the meter or valve near the street to the main water valve inside the house. It is typically made of copper, plastic, or sections of both.


Unlike the components above, water meters and their settings are owned and maintained by the Fairfax Water. Most houses built between 1971 and 1980 are equipped with an inside water meter, which is connected to a remote register on the exterior of the house. In the case of an inside meter setting the Authority only maintains the water meter and remote reader. Other meters are located near the edge of the property in a small pit covered by a cast iron lid. It is helpful to keep plants, shrubs, and trees trimmed away from our meters and registers to allow us to read and maintain them.


  • It is a good idea to locate and mark your main-line valve and check it for proper operation. This valve controls water flowing into your home. Marking the valve will allow you to quickly turn off the water if a pipe should burst or you have other water problems. You can minimize the potential for water damage by ensuring that everyone in the household knows how to shut off the water in an emergency. To make it easier, we’ve provided a main water valve tag you can print and attach to the valve. Note: If you are having trouble printing the valve tag, you might need to update your Adobe Reader. If you are still having trouble, call 703-289-6019, TTY 711.
  • Make sure you know where the valves are for your outside spigots. That way, when freezing weather is forecast, you can easily turn off the water to the outside spigots.
  • Shut off and drain the pipes leading to your outside faucets. Using the valves located inside your home, make sure no water is left to freeze, expand, and cause a leak in these lines.
  • Never try to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame or torch.
  • If you cannot maintain heat inside your home, take further precautions to prevent damage. Turn off the main water supply and drain the plumbing.
  • If you’ll be away from home for an extended period, keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature to protect pipes from freezing.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated spaces. Hardware or building supply stores carry insulation designed to keep pipes in these areas from freezing.