It's inevitable: water mains will break at some point in time. And once they do, it can disrupt those in the local vicinity, as well as those that carry the responsibility of fixing them. Breakages can cause roads to shut down, can inflict damage to property and can cause chaos across the board. So when it can be prevented, this is always at the top of the priority list.
How does the whole water network even work?
Each city has a water distribution system that's made up of a whole lot of interconnected nodes and pipes. This system has large lines that feed into smaller ones (those that connect to your home). A variety of valves then run through the entire system to control pressure and also flow. As towers store water as needed, gravity can then be used to bring it into the properties that require access on demand. The main pipeline can break at any point in time during this process.
But why do steel mains break?
Breaks can happen for a lot of reasons, but here are a few of the most common causes.
Excavations: Works that are contracted to dig into the ground can sometimes accidentally hit water pipes with the equipment they are using. This could be a shovel, but more commonly, the perpetrator lies within excavation machinery.
The age of the pipes: Pipes age, just like any kind of infrastructure. As time goes on, they're more likely to break. Water mains installed before 1980 are usually made of cast iron and these are now considered to be more brittle than steel alternatives. As the temperature changes, cast iron pipes contract, which can cause cracking. Older sewer pipes are also generally made from clay, which breaks fairly easy.
Changes in pressure: Pressure inside the pipes change in a few ways. Firstly, the most typical situation is that the temperature fluctuates. This is sometimes referred to as thermal expansion. When the ground around the pipe heats or freezes, the material expands and contracts. This is when a break or rupture can happen.
Settling: The soil around any pipe can settle over time, meaning the pipes are placed under stress beneath the surface. If t here's too much ground settling, the overall pressure can cause a breakage of the pipe.
Corrosive environments: Sometimes soil can be highly corrosive and eat away at pipes. For metal and iron pipes, this is even more of a problem. Eventually, the system will break down. Most of the time, these instances occur in fittings or pipelines that haven't been correctly protected from the corrosive soil.
What can we do about pipe breakages?
Luckily, there's a number of experts around these days - like us - who are well-equipped with the ability to replace or repair certain pipelines. It's important to choose the right person for the job though, as each case differs in terms of severity and specifications. When in doubt, always contact the experts.