Water mains are the primary lines run by the local municipal water supply to pump water to every home in your neighborhood. If you live in an area with cold winters and months of freezing temperatures, you likely know all about protecting the pipes inside your home from freezing and bursting. But can the water main itself freeze up or become damaged and start leaking? Learn about potential damage to the water main and your plumbing connection to it to prepare for the challenges of freezing temperatures.

Buried Underground

In general, water mains and your primary main connection are both buried deep underground. Each area sets the installation depth based on how deep frost forms in the soil during an average winter. This is known as the frost line, and it also affects construction. However, some pipes can still freeze when they're installed deep within the soil if there's a particularly cold winter that has far lower temperatures than the average for your area. Changes in the soil's condition, such as leaks from other pipes, can also cause deeper freezing that affects an entire water main.

Located Near a Gas Line

There are also some specific installation conditions that can lead to freezes in the water mains that you have no chance of preventing. This occurs when a metal main pipe, such as the usual cast iron commonly used across the country, is in contact with a gas line. The gas main line is naturally very cold even in hot weather, so it can reach extremely cold temperatures in the winter. This can cause recurrent freezes in the water main until the two lines are separated to prevent the heat transfer.

Exposed Pipes

Many losses of water that homeowners assume are occurring in the water main are actually located just on the homeowner's side of the system. The initial water main connection that links the public supply to your home's plumbing system is often located very near the surface of the ground, or may run above ground for at least a few feet before entering the home. Use a heating cord that plugs into a standard home outlet to keep any exposed plumbing warm on the coldest days to avoid the need to pay for water main repairs since the freeze is on your side of the system.

Handled by the Professionals

If there is a freeze within the water main and not any part of your home's plumbing, you won't be able to restore your water until the company responsible for the water mains is called in. Keep the number for your municipal water supply or other county organization that is responsible for repairs so you can report a problem as soon as you notice it at the taps.