Is the Baltimore water main break a sign of things to come?
December 18, 2009

A 42-inch-diameter water main broke in Baltimore on Thursday, causing a huge disruption to the city's water supply -- not to mention lots of damage to the surrounding street. The Baltimore Sun quotes a representative of the city's department of public works as saying, "People can expect more of these because this is part of a national infrastructure crisis." The Baltimore main was reportedly 70 years old -- and that's not uncharacteristic of water supply systems in large cities. Omaha, for instance, has been battling water main breaks in parts of the city where the water infrastructure is more than a century old.

It's not cheap to maintain a modern water-infrastructure system, but it's often even more costly to deal with catastrophic failures like a break in a 42" main. Some water-main failures are caused by air pressure that builds and isn't properly released. The air pressure can exceed the strength of the old metal in the main, causing dramatic failures. That's why we recommend the use of air-release valves to help relieve the pressure within water (and sewer) mains, preventing surges from leading to ruptures.

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last revised December 2009