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A water main is a primary underground pipe in a municipal water distribution system. It is a major artery that supplies a high volume of water to smaller pipes on the way to homes and businesses.

Pressure changes inside a water main is the most common reason for a water main to break. Changes in temperature, or thermal expansion and contraction, cause water pipes to expand and contract as the ground around them freezes and thaws, sometimes causing them to fail. Other factors contributing to water main breaks can include:

Pipe age and material
Pipe condition due to corrosion, weakened structural integrity, or normal wear and tear
Nearby construction activities
Normal water system operations

If a planned outage is necessary for routine water infrastructure improvements, the District will notify those that have registered for the reverse 9-1-1 emergency alert system at least 24 hours in advance. Please keep in mind – emergency water main breaks are unplanned and unpredictable,  the District cannot always provide advanced notification at or during an emergency after-hours event.

Often, the flow of water through a water main must be stopped to perform repairs. While making repairs, the District makes every effort to minimize the number of customers impacted by a shut-down. Repairs are made as quickly as possible to restore service to the affected customers.

Most often, the District will make a repair by removing and replacing the pipe section where a failure has occurred. We will also replace any required piping fixtures needed to return the pipe to service safely. In some instances, a repair clamp can be used rather than cutting out a section, which shortens the repair duration.

The length of time required to repair a water main break varies significantly. The extent of the failure and the break’s circumstance can sometimes cause further complications that can lead to service restoration delays.

Whenever you are notified of a water main break in your area, customers are encouraged to minimize their water use. It is not uncommon to experience water discoloration or air bubbles/pockets in your home. These experiences generally are not cause for concern, but they may seem troubling. Minimizing your water use during a water main break will not only limit discolored water and air bubbles/pockets from entering your plumbing, but it will also ensure water is available to those who truly need it.

Water discoloration experienced during a water main break often results from mineral deposits on the inside of a water main or water service, also known as tuberculation, becoming freed from the pipe wall and traveling with the drinking water into your home or business. These particles are naturally-occurring in drinking water and are a nuisance but not harmful. To minimize inconveniences to you such as laundry discoloration, stained or clogged plumbing fixtures, or worries about your residence and those that reside there, please reduce your water usage until the water main repair is complete.

During business hours, contact the District business office directly at 978-443-6602 for assistance.

After business hours the District always has an experienced water operator on-call 24-7, 365 days per year. Call 9-1-1 and request the Sudbury Police Department will page an on-call water operator to address the emergency.