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Cold Weather Effects on Municipal Water Supplies

Municipal Wells

Although it might not make sense, household water use actually goes up during winter. Think about it, more people spend their time indoors. So when you factor in high-water demands, cold weather challenges for a municipal water supply are magnified.

Most obvious, harsh winters increase risks for elevated tanks, pipes and valves to fail — especially during night when water demand and turnover rate is low. Most temperature-related problems, however, can be prevented with appropriate planning, maintenance and inspections. For example, flowing water is less prone to freezing. Moving water in and out of elevated tanks and mixing systems can lower the risk of failure.

Of particular nuisance for water utilities is frazil ice – a loose collection of slushy ice that forms on cold, clear nights when water temperatures are near freezing. Frazil ice forms at the surface and is notorious for blocking submerged raw water intakes – shutting down pumps. To avoid problems with freezing in the plant and distribution system, sealing external openings and insulating facility buildings, pump and disinfection booster stations can reduce heating loss and cold air penetrations.

What the heck is frazil ice?

For home owners, lateral lines leading from a utility-owned water main through the yard to a home are particularly susceptible to freezing under the roadway or sidewalk where there is no grass or snow to provide an insulating barrier between the cold air and buried pipe.

Winterizing Tips For Water Utilities

Residential Wells

Cold has no apparent negative affect on the equipment nor well, in part, because the well and equipment are sealed on the outside. The well cap and casing serve as insulation in a closed system. Lateral pipes that carry water from your well to a distribution source should be below the frost line. In addition, even during the most severe winter or hottest summer, the ground water held by your well generally stays at approximately 55 degrees year round. Though water levels have been known to drop in winter due to atmospheric pressure – the consistent water temperature keeps most of the equipment in a constant state far from freezing.

Does cold weather affect your well?

Effect of temperature on ground-water levels

Cold Weather & Dataloggers