We have already had our share of winter weather this year, and forecasters say there is more to come. I have written before about how to prepare for winter storms, but one aspect I haven’t touched on is how winter storms affect our water supply. The Public Service Commission wants you to be prepared for every eventuality.
You probably already know to insulate your pipes, cover outdoor faucets and drip water from your indoor faucets when the temperatures drop below freezing. But what do you do when the pipe that bursts is not under your control? How do you prepare for a broken water main?
Water mains can break any time, but like any other pipe, they are more likely to fail during long stretches of sub-freezing weather. Your water utility will get to work on fixing the problem right away, but repairs can take time. The utility may have to wait for parts to arrive, and the cold slows their work as it does everyone’s. The only thing you can do is prepare for the possibility that you may be without water service for a while. Hopefully, the water will be back on in a few hours, but it could be a day or more.
While you’re supplying your pantry for a possible power outage, set aside several gallons of bottled water for drinking and cooking. You may buy bottled water or fill containers from your tap. Stock up enough to have a gallon per person per day. Although they don’t need as much, remember to include your pets in the headcount. If you have a family member with special needs, add an extra gallon or two. It’s also a good idea to fill your bathtub with water. That can be used for flushing the toilet while the water is out.
After water service is restored, your utility will issue a boil water advisory. Main breaks result in dirt and other contaminants infiltrating the water supply. For at least 24 hours after service is restored you will need to boil your tap water before using it for drinking, cooking or bathing. Boil the water for at least 10 minutes. This will remove any contaminants. Do not rely on home water filtration systems in place of boiling. When your utility lifts the boil water advisory, you will know that your tap water is once again safe to drink. Stay warm and safe this winter.