Water Lines Under Stress in Drought

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COLUMBIA - The city has seen more water lines break from the hot and dry summer that stresses and breaks them.

"When the ground gets dry and cracked, the dirt shifts and causes the pipes to move, putting stress on the pipes. That can cause them to break," Utility Services Specialist Connie Kacprowicz said Monday.

Kacprowicz said that the city repaired 10 water main breaks in May. In July, the hottest month of the summer so far, the city repaired 48 water main breaks. August numbers already show 13 repairs and the city anticipates having several more with unchanging dry conditions.

"Our guys have had to work overtime to repair these lines," Kacprowicz said.

Kacprowzic believes the majority of the lines that have broken were in residential neighborhoods. The city has also tried to replace older pipes with new pipes to try to prevent and maintain the lines. But Kacprowzic said that there is no way to ultimately prevent a water line break. Kacprowzic said water line breaks also have nothing to do with the amount the pipes are used.

However, not all water districts are seeing issues because of the heat. At the Callaway Water District Station 2, manager Tony Cox said Monday he has not seen an increase in pipes breaking. Cox believes they have not seen as many water breaks because of their piping.

"We don't know for sure why our pipes have not been breaking. But we use plastic PVC piping that is flexible and can shift better with the dirt," Cox said.

The City of Columbia uses a mixture of pipe types, but Kacprowicz said the city has been using PVC piping in new projects. Kacprowicz said most of the breaks have happened in older cast iron pipes but that they have seen problems with all types of piping.