How you can avoid an expensive water main break

WAUKESHA/MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It has been the busiest winter in several years for area water departments dealing with water main breaks. There are some simple steps you can take to save yourself thousands of dollars in repair costs.

"It could reach the $4,000, $5,000 range if you have to dig up in the road," Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said.

Don't want to rack up those kinds of costs? Avoiding a water main break can be as simple as running your water for a few minutes several times a day.

"The frost has been driven down into the ground -- farther than we have seen in a number of years and right now, we've seen frost as deep as six feet in the ground," Duchniak said.

That's deep enough to reach the water mains, as well as the pipes that connect your hose to the water main -- called laterals.

In Waukesha, they're seeing a lot of laterals freeze this winter.

"Typically what we see in a year would be maybe one or two laterals freezing. We've received over 40 calls this month," Duchniak said.

The first time that happens, the city will handle the thawing out and repair costs, but if it happens again, the bill's on you! Regardless of who is paying, it could take hours to get the water flowing into your home once again.

"You're trying to live without being able to cook, being able to take showers, being able to go to the bathroom. There's a lot of things that you can't do. You can't really live without water," Duchniak said.

To help keep your laterals and your water meter from freezing, try running the water for five minutes, five or six times a day.

Duchniak also recommends letting warm air reach your pipes -- so if they are behind cabinet doors, open them up!

Call for frozen laterals are also up in Milwaukee. We're told they had 35 calls in December and January, and 20 so far in February.

The city also saw more than double its normal number of water main breaks in January.