Due to forecasted subzero temperatures this coming week, the Idaho Falls Water Division asks property owners and tenants to prepare for the potential of frozen waterlines and offers the following information and tips for property owners.
“Waterlines in Idaho Falls are generally buried between 5 to 6 feet deep, keeping them below the winter frost line, however as temperatures drop below freezing, frost penetrates into the ground,” explains Water Superintendent, Dave Richards. “During extended periods of extreme cold, frost can penetrate more than 7 feet deep, causing serious problems for underground utilities, especially waterlines,” adds Richards.
Smaller waterlines, such as those running from the street to properties, are more prone to freezing. As water freezes, it expands in size which then stops the water flow and can cause waterlines to split or rupture.
If reduced or no water flow is detected to the property, and the property is within Idaho Falls city limits, call the Idaho Falls Water Division at (208) 612-8471 to make sure service isn't temporarily disrupted. If flow is reduced, allow cold water to flow to thaw a partially frozen line. If there is no flow to any indoor faucets, the waterline may be frozen.
Tenants living in an apartment or rental property are encouraged to check with their landlord to verify that work isn’t being performed nearby that could impact water service. Those living in a single family residence should double check water valves inside the home to ensure they are completely open and haven't been tampered with, including valves near water heaters and water softeners. If all valves are open, the waterline is most likely frozen.
Frozen waterlines usually occur where the waterline are exposed to cold temperatures, such as where it enters the basement or crawlspace. When trying to thaw it, do not use a torch. Applying too much heat too fast can cause the ice inside the pipe to fracture and rupture resulting in flooding. Rather, use a hairdryer or rags soaked in warm water to gradually warm the frozen pipe until a little flow of cold water is restored at a faucet. Once flow is restored, allow the faucet's cold water to run until the frozen section is thawed and full flow is restored before shutting it off. The property owner or tenant should leave a trickle of cold water running to prevent the line from freezing again, especially if the frozen section is not able to be further protected. If unsure about how to proceed, contact a licensed plumber for assistance.
In the event of an emergency or even minor waterline repairs, it is extremely beneficial for everyone in the home to know the location of the master shut-off valve and how to operate the valve. The master shut-off valve is typically located where the waterline enters the home, most likely in a mechanical room, basement or crawlspace. For those who have a finished basement and are unable to locate the valve, it may have been covered by a basement wall. The valve is typically either a gate valve or a ball valve. Check to make sure the valve operates freely and is easily accessible.
Media Contact: Public Information Officer, Kerry Hammon, (208) 612-8122 or [email protected].