There have been 10 water main breaks since the start of the year according to Staci Dobrescu, manager of public works and utilities with the City of Moose Jaw.  

“We had eight in January, two in February, and we haven’t had a water main break since February 7th.” 

Last year saw 27 water main breaks, with two of those in January, one in February, and three in March. “Years aren’t so comparable – there's multiple factors that play into water main breaks and when they happen. We’re not able to trend them, because the pipe is deteriorating, so we can’t determine when that pipe is actually going to let go.” 

She said that the ground temperature can be a factor in breaks. “As the frost moves further into the ground and goes deeper, it creates more issues because the ground starts shifting, and then the pipe shifts as well.” 

Pipe deterioration is the main factor in pipe breaks according to Dobrescu. “Our biggest issues are with six-inch cast iron. Being cast iron, it’s deteriorated, and it’s met its life expectancy [so] we have multiple issues more along those lines.” 

Costs for water main breaks depend on the pipe’s location and any conflicting pipes or utilities in the area.  

“If it’s a standard, run-of-the-mill water main break where we have nothing conflicting with that water main specifically, average cost for just a repair – which would be no replacement of pipe – is approximately $9500.” 

She added that repair costs rise if there are issues with needing to replace pipes or deal with utilities.  

“If there’s utilities involved, then we have to expose those utilities, which create a larger hole, which create more issues. That's with any utilities – not only external utilities such as power, energy, phone, cable – but it’s also our own utilities. If it’s a sanitary sewer, or if it's a storm sewer, any of those play a factor into costs.” 

Dobrescu outlined the steps of repairing a water main break as follows: 

  1. A suspected break is called in by a resident or business 

  1. Staff is dispatched to investigate 

  1. If a water main break is found, workers access the valves to isolate the water main 

  1. Workers call in to the operations centre, and they call for clearances for utilities  

  1. Clearances are received, and a crew of 7-8 people is dispatched to excavate 

  1. A hydrovac is used to expose pipe, and pipefitters enter the hole to repair/replace the pipe 

  1. Some dirt is put on top of the pipe, and line is loaded to check that there are no leaks 

  1. Once line is loaded, workers leave the site 

  1. A backfilling crew comes to fill the hole the next day 

  1. During the spring or summer, a roadways crew replaces the asphalt 

On average, it takes 24 hours to repair a water main break from start to finish.  

Aside from emergency water main breaks, the city is currently replacing cast iron water mains with about one third of the 80 km of pipe being replaced so far. 

If you come across a water main break, the best way to make a report is by calling Operations Dispatch at 306-694-4448. While you can make a report on the City of Moose Jaw App, calling directly will get an employee dispatched faster. 

“That number after hours will direct you straight to our after-hours call centre, so you’re put into a queue, and then you can push 1 for an emergency. We consider main water breaks emergent because [while] they may not be causing damage aboveground, we do not know what is occurring underneath the ground.” 

Dobrescu suggests that drivers not drive over water that is pooling or ponding, to avoid getting caught by a potential underground cavity. “Go around it, because you do not know what is happening underneath that hard surface.” 

And as a last piece of advice, Dobrescu asks that you look out for the safety of city workers. “Give them room. If there’s a road closed, please follow the road closed sign and any detours set up.”