Most damage from 30 water main breaks in SA caused by heat, pipe age, officials say

What you can do, what SAWS does during main break season

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Thirty water main breaks on Monday in San Antonio sounds like a lot, but during main break season, that tends to happen, officials say.

One giant main break looked like a geyser shooting up past the freeway overpass at Loop 410 and Perrin Beitel Road and turned a lot of heads.

What Roy Perez, who co-owns Alamo Card House, which is next to where the giant main break happened, had to say:

"A member walks past the door and they see the water going up, and that's when they were like, 'Oh, my gosh! There's a bunch of water coming up out of the ground!'"

"The first thing I think of is, this is going to affect business. How is this going to affect everyone else's business? Are we going to have to shut down?"

"(Officials) said it's only going to be an hour or two. You never really can tell with these things, so we're hoping they're only going to be without water for a little while longer."

San Antonio Water System crews said the water will not be affected long-term.

The break near Alamo Card House is was what's called a "standard" or "normal" break, which is caused by weather or age. During the summer, these kinds of breaks spike as the heat and lack of water in the ground cause pipes to wear down. 

What to do during main break season:

Triple-digit heat and longer stretches without rain provoke more main breaks this time of year. If you see water coming from a "crack or break" in the street, or an abundant amount of water where it shouldn't be, call the SAWS Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, which is open 24/7, at 210-704-7297 to report it.  Be ready to provide as much information as possible when reporting a problem, such as the exact location -- address or cross streets -- amount of water and details on how the break is impacting the surrounding area.

Main break repair process:

  • Stopping all water loss is important, but some breaks take priority over others. SAWS EOC works hard at triaging breaks in the system depending on size, location and potential for damage. Once reported, it is evaluated and added to SAWS queue based on those factors. 

  • SAWS crews are at work 24/7 to manage emergencies. However, specialized parts, equipment or specialized labor needed for some repairs may not be immediately available.

  • Utility lines must be located and marked, including natural gas, electrical, telephone and internet, before any work/ excavation can begin. This can take between four and 48 hours.

  • When a break happens, the water has to be shut off to repair the pipe. Before crews can begin working on repair, the water has to be pumped out of the hole it filled. Once the hole is drained, the work site has to be secured to prevent collapse during work.

  • After the pipe is repaired, crews then have to restore the street. which may take a few weeks. Sometimes temporary steel plates are used to allow traffic to continue in the area while SAWS works on the permanent restoration.

  • The SAWS automated system calls the phone numbers on file for customers to inform them of a service interruption and estimated repair time when they have a break. Customers should make sure that their phone numbers are updated on their account.

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