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Here’s a serious plumbing problem ripped from recent headlines: “Large Water Main Break In East Fort Worth Gushes 100+ Feet Into The Air.”
Water main breaks like this one can leave nearby neighborhoods without water. Based on the size of the main pipeline break and the hours required to locate and mark other buried utilities, homeowners may experience water outages as crews repair the break and restore water service. Once the repair is cleared to begin, a standard repair takes four to five hours to complete.
At the other end of the spectrum, water outages are occasionally planned by local cities or water districts for maintenance purposes. Whether the outage is planned or an emergency, homeowners can take a few practical steps that will minimize the disruption to their homes and families.
Often we don’t think about how much water we use, and how often, until there’s a problem with the supply. Here are a few general tips for making sure your household is ready to get by without water for at least a couple days:
- Don’t let the laundry pile up. Get your family’s clothes, at least, on a schedule where they’re washed every few days. Not having clean underwear or socks can make an inconvenient outage feel like a true emergency.
- Make sure you have enough disposable eating utensils to last your whole family a few days. This means plates, cups, bowls and silverware; you may also want to stock up on paper towels and garbage bags.
- Your goal for any water outage is to need as little water as possible for food preparation. So whenever you go to the grocery store, add to your list a few fully prepared food items like ready-to-eat, microwaveable entrees; canned fruit and vegetables; sandwich makings; etc. Soon you will have enough to last your family for at least a couple days.
The next step is to develop and store a safe water supply.
How much water should you store?
Here are the basic recommendations from ready.gov, the official site of the Department of Homeland Security:
- Store at least one gallon of water per person per day for three days, for both drinking and sanitation.
- Please note a normally active person needs about three-quarters of a gallon of fluid daily from water and other beverages. However, individual needs vary depending on age, health, physical condition, activity, diet and climate.
- Don’t forget to take the following into account:
- Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more water.
- A medical emergency might require additional water.
- If you live in a warm weather climate (like Texas!), more water may be necessary. In very hot temperatures, one person’s water needs can double.
For long-term storage of large quantities of water, buy commercially bottled water and store it in the original sealed container in a cool, dark place; heat and sunlight can affect the plastic and degrade the quality of the water. Speaking of quality degradation, please note you should store plastic containers on cardboard or a wooden pallet in order to protect against the potential absorption of any chemicals that may be present on or in concrete flooring.
To prepare for sponge bathing or refilling your toilet tanks, consider this nifty idea: A cost-effective water bladder you can fill from and store in your bathtub, like this one that holds 100 gallons.
Living through the outage
As soon as any water outage takes effect, shut down your water heating system. You don’t want it to overheat or catch fire when the line runs dry.
Over the duration of the outage:
- Don’t drink carbonated or caffeinated beverages or alcohol instead of drinking water; these dehydrate the body, which actually increases your need for drinking water. And that’s not the result you’re looking for.
- Drink water that you know is not contaminated first. Should you run out of sealed water vessels and need to purify water for drinking or cooking, see ready.gov for tips on how to treat water of unknown quality before it comes into contact with something you ingest.
- As much as possible, limit the use of any household appliance that requires water – the dishwasher, washing machine, etc. Turn off your ice makers, water purification systems, lawn irrigation timers, etc.
- To flush the toilet using water from a bucket, pour it into the tank instead of the bowl; the controlled flush uses less water. Minimize the use of toilet paper, or dispose of it in a trash bag, to avoid any clogs that may build up due to the reduced flow of water in your sewage system.
Bleeding air from your pipes
Once the outage is over and the water is turned back on, it may spit and sputter and make angry noises in your pipes. This won’t damage your plumbing but it does sound alarming.
To remove the air:
- Confirm that the main water line to the house is still turned on by turning it counterclockwise. If the handle is a lever, move the handle in line with the piping.
- Starting on your top floor, or at the fixture closest to the where the main water supply enters the house, systematically open all hot and cold water faucets. Include your showers, tubs, and water-carrying appliances. Don’t miss any outlets where air can accumulate in the pipes.
- Once the water is flowing normally at every fixture, turn off all the faucets and appliances. This may take up to 15 minutes.
- Repeat the process for any water spigots or other outlets outside your house.
Need help with any of your water systems?
Dealing with a water outage is something you should be able to handle without professional assistance; however, you never know what stress it can put on your plumbing.
Should you find you need a professional, Horizon Plumbing has been serving the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex for 40 years. We are licensed by the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners and have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. We do not charge “trip charges” and estimates are always free.
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