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City of Philadelphia

Main Breaks

Contact Us

Report a Problem:
(215) 685-6300

Billing and Account Questions:
Water Revenue Bureau
(215) 685-6300
8:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m.

Mail Payments to:
Water Revenue Bureau
P.O. Box 41496
Philadelphia, PA 19101-1496

Please visit the Water Revenue Bureau website for in-person bill pay locations.

Under our feet are thousands of miles of pipe that bring water to our homes. Philadelphia is an old city, so we manage old infrastructure; some of our water mains were first installed in the 1800s. PWD inspects and maintains 3,200 miles of shared water mains and relies on building owners for maintenance of their water service lines and plumbing
Three different categories of pipes transport water from treatment plants to a customer’s property: transmission mains, distribution mains, and service connections.

Transmission mains are larger water mains with a diameter of 16 inches or larger and are used to move large amounts of water across the city between pump stations and reservoirs.

Distribution mains are smaller than 16 inches and are used to deliver water from transmission mains to customer service connections.

Service connections are the individual connections owned by the property owner that are tapped into the distribution mains that bring water into a building or house.

The service connection and internal household plumbing is owned and maintained by the customer. Learn more about customer responsibilities.

Water Main Break Cause and Prevention

Factors Causing Pipe Fails

Water mains fail when the stresses placed upon them are greater than the strength of the pipe. Water mains don’t get stronger with time; they may get weaker due to internal or external corrosion. External forces on a water main include:
• traffic loading
• temperature changes
• underground work with direct or indirect impact to the pipe
The imbalance of stresses to the strength of a pipe may evidence itself in various ways such as:
• joint leaks,
• pipe breaks, or
• service lines detached from a main.

Ongoing Programs to Prevent Fails and Breaks

Main replacement
The goal of this program is to maintain a high level of water service and system reliability while still achieving a full, useful life of every water main. The main replacement program uses a scoring system to prioritize replacement and provide a systematic approach to the management of assets. Generally, the older the main and the more frequently it has experienced breaks, the higher the priority for its replacement. Currently, PWD replaces 30 miles of high-priority water mains every year at a cost of approximately $1 million per mile.
Cathodic protection
The cathodic protection program guards against exterior corrosion from soil conditions or stray electric current that may cause weak spots in the water mains. During main replacement or repair, inspectors determine if the conditions require cathodic protection for the new main.
Leak detection
Leak detection analysis focuses on non-visible leaks on both transmission and distribution mains. Acoustic devices are used to analyze one third of the city water mains each year. The deeper, larger transmission mains are investigated by a specialized leak detection company.
Corrosion testing
Our corrosion testing and rehabilitation program also prevents breaks in large, cast iron transmission mains. This cleaning and relining program can reduce leaks and extend the useful life of transmission mains.

What to Expect

  • System Flushing Tips
  • How will PWD respond?
  • Loss of Water

Responding to Water Main Breaks