Drought takes a toll on city's water mains - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Drought takes a toll on city's water mains


Water main breaks can be pretty common in cold weather.

Sioux City's seen a record number of pipes burst this month, and it's not just the cold that's the culprit.

Crews have patched up this 10-foot long hole that was dug into the road this morning after a water main broke at South Lemon and Myers Streets.  It's one of 27 pipes that have burst this month alone.

"I just called 911 and told the operator it's not really an emergency but there's water squirting out through the cracks in my street," said Todd Coon who lives on South Lemon.

Crews shut down water to homes over a three block stretch, from Bushnell to Lorraine, for four hours. A neighborhood in Riverside experienced similar water woes today.  The city's utilities supervisor says it's not uncommon to have three breaks going on at one time.

"It's our highest year since we started keeping record in 1982," said Tim Higgins.

While wicked weather is to blame, it's not what you might think.

"The ground has been so dry because of the drought this year," explained Higgins.

Add pipe problems to the growing list of issues caused by the drought.  Higgins explained that the absence of moisture causes the soil to shift. 

"It allows the frost to go deeper into the ground," said Higgins.

At 50-years old, the pipes in this Morningside neighborhood have also reached their life expectancy.  However, many of Sioux City's water mains are actually much older.

"The average life of our pipes in the ground is around 70-years old," Higgins added.

"It's not just an inconvenience, it costs $6,000-$7,000 on average to fix one of these broken pipes.  Higgins says he's just about blown through is materials budget for the year, which is supposed to last till the end of June.

The dry weather took it's toll on the city's water lines last summer too, with a new record reached for the month of August as well.


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