News Feature | December 22, 2017

Can Microtrenching Reduce Water Main Breaks?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

watermainbreak reg new

Google Fiber has caused some headaches for water utilities because installing superfast internet connections sometimes breaks water and sewer lines.

San Antonio is one location that provides an example. San Antonio Water System (SAWS) records “show that Google contractors broke 44 lines between January and November 2016 — almost one per week. SAWS billed the companies for repairs, receiving $134,810 in compensation for 13 line breaks. Twenty-six other breaks totaling $91,255 in damages remain unpaid,” according to, a nonprofit news site that says it is nonpartisan and devoted to government transparency.

Similar issues arose in Nashville last year. According to Nashville Public Radio, “contractors for Google Fiber twice damaged a 36-inch water main in North Nashville, causing streets to flood and homes to suffer from low water pressure. Initial findings [showed] there have been dozens of other lesser-known incidents.”

However, Google is now using a new technique to install fiber and it may reduce tensions with water and sewer utilities. Google officials are touting a new technique called “microtrenching,” which may be less disruptive to water and sewer services.

“Google Fiber has dramatically shifted its construction technique for bringing its high-speed internet option to Nashville,” according to Nashville Public Radio.

“Since October, several neighborhoods have been seeing crews use large circular saws, often attached to Ditch Witch tractors, cutting grooves into the asphalt — an inch wide, and at least 4 inches deep. The cable is run inside and covered with foam and quick-dry concrete. The method is loud and briefly disrupts street parking. But in many ways, it has become a much-preferred alternative,” the report said.

Public works officials in Nashville said Google Fiber had taken out 1,200 microtrenching permits in the last couple of months, News Channel 5 reported.

Mike Leddy, a Google Fiber official, explained the benefits of the technique to KXAN.

“This enables us to move much faster through the neighborhood and also to have a much lower impact to the residents in the area that we are building,” he said.

To read more about how construction can disrupt water service lines visit Water Online’s Solutions And Insight For Water Loss Prevention.

Image credit: "IMG_1946" Mark Taylor © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: