Wed. Feb 21st, 2024
Burst pipes still a concern as MLGW ends water conservation order

Why don’t colder cities have as many burst pipes as Memphis?


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Growing up in the Detroit area, Rene Hickner never had to deal with a burst pipe.

“Absolutely not,” she laughed.

Now a Chickasaw Gardens resident, Hickner’s bathroom pipe burst during the deep freeze.

“I’ve never had anything happen like this in Michigan,” Hickner said. “They’re just way more equipped to deal with the weather.”

In the past week, local utility crews have had to respond to 56 broken water mains and thousands of residential and commercial broken pipes, according to Memphis, Light, Gas and Water (MLGW).

“Winters are getting colder,” MLGW President and CEO Doug McGowen said on Friday. “The freezing temperatures are going to be having an impact.”

FOX13 asked McGowen why colder cities like Milwaukee and Minnesota don’t see the

“In the northern climes of our country, the water lines are buried deeper because the frost line is deeper,” McGowen said.

He’s right.

In Memphis, the water mains are buried between 4-6 feet deep.

In Minneapolis, water service lines are buried at least 7 feet deep.

However, an MLGW spokeswoman said that is the distance most efficient for repairs or maintenance.

“The water in the main does not freeze at that depth,” she wrote. “Main breaks that occur in the cold weather are primarily caused by the ground around the main contracting and then expanding as the weather changes.”

Memphis might see more burst residential pipes than other cities because of different construction standards. Could the Bluff City learn something from the Twin Cities?

“We get extremely cold temperatures here,” said Dave Napier, the general manager of Minneapolis Saint Paul Plumbing, Heating, & Air.

Napier recommended that residents invest in a frost-free valve for their water spigots. He said commercial properties can also invest in dry pipe sprinkler systems instead of wet pipe sprinkler systems.

New home builders should avoid installing water pipes in exterior walls.

That could have prevented Hickner’s pipe from bursting.

“If Tennessee is expecting to get colder weather, they might want to start thinking about some of these practices,” Napier recommended.

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