News Feature | March 4, 2014

Northern Water Utilities Fight The Cold

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

winterreg

How cold is it?

It's so cold that water utilities across the county have asked customers to keep their water running to prevent pipes from freezing this winter.

In Minnesota, utilities were extra wary of infrastructure pains this year as temperatures plummeted. Officials across the northern and southeastern parts of the state told residents "to keep their water running to avoid freezing pipes and help prevent more water main breaks. This comes as cities declare water main emergencies and crews continuously scramble to thaw lines across the region," according to Bring Me The News

Wisconsin utilities faced similar problems. "This winter's extreme cold had some state water utilities [asking] customers to keep the water on 24 hours a day to try to prevent frozen water lines," Capital Times reported. This plea was issued "in dozens of Wisconsin communities, mainly in central and northern Wisconsin, but also in other cities in the southern half of the state, including Sheboygan and Fond du Lac," the report said. 

In the campaign against frozen pipes, utilities took the lead, speaking up in communities that were most at risk. "We are targeting a handful of areas in Madison where we are seeing frozen laterals, generally on dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs, and we're telling people in those areas to run a pencil-thin stream of water," Madison Water Utility spokeswoman Amy Barrilleaux said in the report earlier this month. 

Customers are concerned about rates as utilities asked them to keep the water running.

In parts of Wisconsin, ratepayers will not foot the bill. "The water used by customers asked to keep a continuous flow in Madison will be subtracted from the water bill," the report said. 

In Portage, MI, officials communicated that the cost would not be steep. "Running the small stream will use approximately 55 gallons of water and will cost 44 cents a day," the Kalamazoo Gazette reported, citing the city.

Some customers were at higher risk than others. The Portage release explained: "Customers whose water service line travels under the street or driveway to the home or building are at a particularly high risk for freezing pipes."

Image credit: "Ho-nee-um winter 02-06-2013," © 2013 Richard Hurd, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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