Rural Water Responding to Winter Weather

Rural Water Responding to Winter Weather

It has been a busy week for water and wastewater operators across the U.S. as they respond to winter weather and all that comes with it. From water main breaks to water towers freezing, cold temperatures can take their toll on a community. North Dakota Rural Water Association (NDRWA) and Kansas Rural Water Association (KRWA) have provided just a few examples of the work being done.

Nathan Olmstead of NDRWA sent in the following. The photos show some of the different types of water issues that arise in frigid temperatures of the great north. They also give a little insight on what needs to be done to repair issues with a water system in these types of conditions.

NDRWA Circuit Rider Nathan Olmstead

As the frost moves deeper and deeper into the ground with these extremely harsh, negative temperatures, it causes a lot of different pressures on infrastructures. The water system is one of the main concerns. Water systems that are buried at a depth of 8’ or deeper to stay below the frost line do not always completely protect the system from the effects. The different pressures exerted below can cause a system to shift enough to crack or split the water main or service lines. The frost line itself can cause even more issues with determining where the break occurred. With the frost in the ground, the water will want to travel the path of least resistance. This can cause the water to travel even hundreds of feet in any direction under the frost and possible surfacing in a random area. The static pressure created by the leak and the frost not letting it surface can push it further down into the ground where it can find its way into the sanitary sewer system. It can still be very difficult to locate this leak. The water can travel for quite a distance in the sanitary sewer trench until it finds a way in. Experience, knowledge, and specialty tools play a vital role in establishing where the leak is. Olmstead provided pictures and videos which show a couple different ways of getting through the frost to repair a leak.

Track hoe with ripper tooth. A difficult and time-consuming process.
Steam coming off the tooth of the track hoe is heat dissipating from the friction of the tooth grinding on the frozen asphalt.
A water main break that was so bad it pushed right through the frost and boiled out.

KRWA Wastewater Technician Charlie Schwindamann was on site to assist the city of Republic, Kansas with a lift station issue. The vacuum pump on a Smith and Loveless pump had not been working well and he sent in pictures of what he got into! KRWA Circuit Rider #2 Greg Metz and Schwindamann assisted the city in -21-degree temperatures. The city’s water tower had frozen up and then encountered a six-inch water main break. The Circuit Rider and Wastewater Technician assisted the city with replacing 15 feet of water main that had split, set pressure reliefs to run the system in bypass mode, and restored water to the customers. The picture of the fire hydrant shows the relief valve was used to reduce water hammer when the well cycled on or off to prevent more breaks.

These are just a few of the examples of what State Rural Water Association’s and Rural Water operators are dealing with in these winter weather conditions. Make sure to say thank you to your local water and wastewater operators for all the work they do.