A water main is the primary pipe that delivers water from a public works department to the homes and businesses in a community. According to the Water Main Break Clock, a website that informs the public about the dangers of corroding pipes, roughly 850 water mains burst every day in North America, with more than 4 million ruptures having been recorded since 2000.
These water main breaks can be as inconsequential as causing minor traffic tie-ups or as major as full-fledged public emergencies, displacing entire neighborhoods and, in some cases, disturbing an entire city.
In November 2012, the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, the second largest municipality in the state, suffered a massive water main break that put the entire community in a tailspin.
The break occurred outside of Worcester State University, one of several higher education institutions in the city, causing the entire campus to shut down due to massive flooding. According to the local CBS affiliate, the pipe was30 inches thick, and the cause for the break appeared to be normal erosion.
Not only was the university affected, but water throughout the city and surrounding towns became undrinkable, causing city officials to immediately instate a water ban. In most cases, boiling water wasn't even an option.Most homes and businesses had nothing coming out of their taps, while the few that did reported water that was more rust and mud than actual fluid.
The schools throughout the city were put on a two-hour delay while officials tried to repair the pipe and get water running again. It took several days for the problem to be completely remedied, because after the necessary repairs were made, the Department of Public Works had to flush out the entire system.
It was eventually determined that the city's main water pipes were in desperate need of replacement - a project officials had no choice but to look into implementing.