Waukesha Water Main Break Day After Christmas; Plus Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes
December 27, 2022

Tamira Musgrave



  • The search revealed a 12” pipe broken that restricted water practically the entire day on West Avenue, from Sunset to the train tracks.
  • The crew stated their best estimate of water loss was around 8,300 gallons per minute and that they lost approximately one million gallons in just two hours. 
  • Once we hit freezing temperatures, taking a few precautions is a good idea to prevent your pipes from bursting and causing a leak.
  • Keep your faucets running low through extreme cold spells, direct warm air into open sink cabinets, maintain a consistent indoor temperature, and install heat tape or pipe sleeves to prevent frozen or busted pipes in winter.

A temperature change was the culprit of the water main break near Sunset and West Avenue. Crews were called out bright and early Monday morning, around 8 a.m., and it was a challenging job, taking about 8 hours in freezing temperatures to target the break. 

The day after Christmas, many Waukesha businesses remained closed. The water equipment manager stated, “It turned out it was a pipe that broke and separated, and it was pretty major.” No running water left businesses with complications regarding their services. 

Water utility workers hustled to get the job taken care of. The search revealed a 12” pipe broken that restricted water pretty much all day on West Avenue, from Sunset over to the train tracks. Residents around a mile away still reported “rusty-colored water” as a result. Officials stated the water might look dirty, but it was still safe to drink. 

The crew stated their best estimate of water loss was around 8,300 gallons per minute and that they lost approximately one million gallons in just two hours. 

Over 60 calls about burst pipes in Milwaukee came through over the holiday weekend. Fire Department Deputy Chief Erich Roden shared some tips about burst pipes during freezing weather. “If you do notice a severe leak, the first thing to do is obviously shut off your water, your main water.” He adds, “There’s usually a valve located near your water meter on the street or the side of your house.” Stained walls or ceilings, loss of water pressure, and out-of-place rushing or running water sounds are signs of a leak. 

“They never burst out in the open where you can see them readily. Usually, they’ll burst behind walls or under the floor, somewhere like that. That is why a lot of people will call and say water is coming through my light fixtures in the ceiling.” 

Expert Tips: Prevent Busted Pipes During Freezing Temperatures

Once we hit freezing temperatures, it’s a good idea to take a few precautions to prevent your pipes from bursting and causing a leak. Once you notice reduced water flow, it is indicative that your pipes may have ice forming inside of them, causing reduced flow through your faucet. 

Here are some ways to prevent broken and frozen pipes during the cold season in Wisconsin. 

Keep Faucets Running Low

This is especially helpful through severe cold spells. Keeping one or two of your faucets running slow and low through the lines helps keep freezing from occurring. It also helps prevent the build-up of pressure inside your pipes. 

You can keep faucets running even if you apply warmth to the area. Water flow will increase once you melt the ice that has formed inside your pipes.

Direct Warmth Toward Colder Areas 

Most water supply pipes that freeze are typically found near an exterior wall or window. Since this is a common theme, we can direct heated air in those directions to prevent freezing. You can also do this in your basement or garage, where exposed pipes are more common. 

Open Doors to Cabinets

Kitchen sinks are usually situated on an exterior wall. Therefore, it’s ideal to open that cabinet door and direct some warm air into that space, allowing the warmth to circulate around the plumbing. 

Heated air can reach these pipes more readily and help prevent freezing or breaking. Remember to keep any stored chemicals safe and out of reach if you have children or pets in the home. 

Install Heat Tape or Pipe Sleeves

You can install heat tape in your home, which is designed to keep pipes warm during freezing temperatures. Heat tape is an affordable and straightforward solution to keeping your lines from busting in the winter. 

You can also line exposed pipes in your basement or garage with pipe sleeves to help keep them warmer and reduce your risk of freezing and ruptures. 

Maintain Home Temperature 

It’s a good idea to ensure the rooms in your home aren’t dropping below 32° F, day or night.

Maintaining a consistent inside temperature of 55° F can prevent frozen pipes. While it may boost the cost of your heating bill, it will protect you from experiencing a costly, complicated repair concerning busted pipes/leaks in your home.

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