D.C. water main break affects homes, embassies

(Photo: Van Applegate/WJLA)

The warmer weather is good for outdoor activities, but it's not great for old water mains. The back and forth from cold to warm temperatures is a big factor in the increase in water main breaks we're seeing.

Near Riggs Pl. and New Hampshire Ave., four apartment buildings and five embassies were without water throughout the day Tuesday.

D.C. sees about 400 water main breaks a year, more than one a day. Most of the breaks happen around this time of year in the winter months.

If there is a temperature difference between the inside of the pipe and ground around it, it can cause cracking. Think of it like putting a hot coffee pot under cold water.

You can’t forget the pipes in D.C. are old; the average age for one of them is 77 years. Some have been underground since before the Civil War. The same problem is seen in counties throughout the area.

A recent water main break disrupted water service on Thanksgiving Day. The decades-old line broke and left nearly 600 homes dry.

Sanja Pesek, who was without water Tuesday, says it’s the price you pay for living in an old home.

“You know I come from Yugoslavia, the territory of war, so this is really nothing compared to that,” he says.