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North Austin Water Main Break Causes Road Closure
A broken main sends water shooting 20 feet into the air. It happened in Central Austin Wednesday morning near North Loop and Avenue F around 6 a.m.
"All of a sudden, I just heard a big ol, like a boom," said John Peters, who says he was across the street when the break happened along the 12-inch main. "It shot as high as that billboard," he said, referencing a roughly 20 ft. high billboard across the street.
City crews worked hours to shut the water off, pump it out of the ground, and get to the bottom of the break that impacted two to three blocks or about 50 customers.
"We had some cold temperatures overnight, so we're definitely not ruling that out," said Jason Hill, Austin Water spokesman, when asked about a possible cause. "Extreme temperatures whether they're hot or cold wreak havoc (on the pipes). Things constrict and expand."
The older the lines are, the worse it gets. The city has about 4,000 miles of underground lines, some as far back as the 1900s.
"It's tough to be really, really proactive because we can't we can't wrap our pipes or open up the ground to keep the warmth," said Hill.
So instead, Hill says they’re shifting workforce to cut down on response time. Over the next five years, they’re spending $125 million to tackle the problem that’s causing them to lose about eight percent of their drinking water a year.
"Upgrade those lines, to take out those older lines and replace them with new technology," said Hill, responding to what the money would pay for.
With hundreds of breaks a year, each costing an average of $10,000, the city hopes spending the money now will mean less water and money from going down the drain.
Hill says the public can help the city out when the temperatures get below freezing overnight, not just by wrapping pipes outside and dripping faucets, but also by knowing where their property owner shut-off switch is in case of a water emergency.
By Adam Bennett