Report a Water Main Break

not the norm, but a water-main-break shoots water 30 feet high

If water is spraying out or ponding in the yard or street area during periods of no rain or melting snow, it may be a water break. Please report suspected water main breaks to 311 (614-645-3111) or 614-645-8276 immediately (phones open weekdays 7:00 am - 6:00 pm). Our 24-hour Water Distribution Maintenance desk can be reached after-hours at 614-645-7788.

Why do water line breaks occur?

While water main breaks are often associated with Ohio's winter weather conditions - when they are more likely - they can occur at any time of the year on both older and newer water lines. Water lines are pressurized and buried nearly 4 feet deep, below the ground freeze line. However, extreme cold and temperature changes may cause ground shifting which can put unusual stress on the lines. Extended cold weather also makes the ground hard, and vehicular traffic driving over the lines can add additional stress. Breaks can also occur as a result of construction activity in an area.

How are city water main break repairs prioritized?

Breaks are repaired on a priority system based on severity of the leak, location and other factors including critical facilities the line may serve such as hospitals, nursing homes or schools. Breaks along very busy roads might need to be completed during weekends and evenings during times with less traffic. Coordination with area businesses that may have an interruption in water service during the repair may also need to occur before the repair can be made.

Once a leak is reported, how long should I expect it to take for a repair crew to return to fix it?

The city's goal is to repair them within two weeks, using the prioritization process, and many are repaired within a few days. For safety reasons, other underground utilities must be marked before excavation can begin. This is to avoid hitting, for example, a gas line. Blue and white signs are usually posted in the break area, which means the break has been reported and the repair is scheduled. The date on the sign is a to-be-repaired-by date, but many are often repaired well before.

When the crew arrives, how long does a waterline break repair take?

Once all the underground utilities in the area have been marked and the repair work begins, a routine water line repair usually takes about 4 to 6 hours to complete, but the time can vary depending upon the extent of what needs to be repaired.

Please note, waterline repair work may cause discolored water, reduced water pressure or a temporary loss of water. Once service is restored, it may take 2 to 4 hours for cold water to run clear. Learn what to do during a rusty water event.

Is the water usually turned off during a repair?

Every attempt is made to keep the water service on during the repair, though you may experience reduced water pressure. In some cases, a water outage may be necessary to make the repair. Notification to affected customers may occur via Water Outage signs placed in the neighborhood or through door hangers when possible. A major outage may be reported to the local news media and posted on the Utilities home page, and in the document library (under News Release Lists).

Please note, waterline repair work may cause discolored water, reduced water pressure or a temporary loss of water. Once service is restored, it may take 2 to 4 hours for cold water to run clear. Learn what to do during a rusty water event.

Are property owners ever responsible for any waterline repairs?

Yes, but that depends on where the break is found to be. Your property should have a curb box in the sidewalk area; it has a round metal lid embossed "Water" and may be painted blue. The city is responsible for maintaining that box and the water line on the public right-of-way side of it. The owner is responsible for maintenance of the property's water service line from the box to the building or home.

Once you report a suspected break, a city crew can determine which side the leak is on and notify you via a door hanger if you are responsible to repair the leak. In that case, the property owner will be given a specified time period in which the leak must be repaired, to avoid continued water loss. A licensed contractor must be used and an inspection must be scheduled with the city. Check the list of certified contractors.

Is a boil water advisory necessary on every water line break?

In the rare instance a boil water advisory is needed, which is often precautionary following a water testing period to ensure no contamination occurred, a news release may be sent to the local media and posted on our Utilities home page and in the document library (under News Release Lists). When possible, door hangers will be distributed to affected customers. For any questions, please call Customer Service at (614) 645-8276.

What about road closures during a repair?

Any major road closures due to a water line break are reported to the city's Paving the Way office. You can also receive road closure notices using Twitter.

What is the City of Columbus doing to reduce water main breaks?

A capital improvement program addresses replacement and rehabilitation needs on lines with a higher break history. The Department of Public Utilities has more than quadrupled its water line replacement and rehabilitation budget in recent years from around $5 million a year to over $20 million per year for rehabilitation and replacement needs. Modern construction methods and materials should help reduce the incidence of future breaks. The Division of Water also has a proactive leak detection program that allows some undetected underground leaks to be found in advance. However, there is no way to completely prevent the occurrence of waterline breaks, and even newer water lines can break.

I live outside Columbus in another municipality that contracts with Columbus for water. Who is responsible for repairing those water lines?

This depends upon the contractual arrangement. If outside Columbus, it is best to report the suspected break and crews can advise on the particular situation.

What else do I need to know?

Waterline repair work may temporarily cause discolored water. Once service is restored, it may take 2 to 4 hours for cold water to run clear and it's best to avoid using hot water or washing clothes. Learn what to do during a rusty water event.

Any roadway pavement disturbed during the work will be repaired as weather permits, which is the same case for lawn restoration (like grass seeding), meaning crews often have to return to a work site in the spring.

For additional questions, please call Customer Service at (614) 645-8276 weekdays from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm, or (614) 645-7788 after hours and on weekends.