Weather and Water Mains
Cold weather and freezing temperatures create a stress on our water and sewer infrastructure, increasing the chance of leaks and needed repairs. County staff strives to make necessary repairs as quickly and safely as possible, with the least disruption to residents and traffic. We appreciate the community's patience with any unavoidable disruptions caused by these repairs. With approximately 485 miles of water lines and 465 miles of sewer pipes to monitor, residents play a crucial role in reporting breaks. If you spot a leak or what you perceive to be an abnormality in the system, please notify us immediately by calling 703-228-6555.
What to do if you suspect a water main break?
The first thing you should do is call Arlington County’s 24-hour water emergency hotline at 703-228-6555. Once the Arlington Water/Sewer/Streets Bureau (WSS) has been notified, an experienced employee or crew is dispatched to investigate and assess the problem.
Main breaks that leave customers without water service are given highest priority for repair. When a break is identified, the water is turned off to the immediate area and repairs begin. The interruption of water to customers is a decision that Arlington County takes very seriously. Crews work quickly to repair main breaks and leaks, however, work can take up to eight hours or more.
The emergency has been reported. Now what? We encourage residents to report water problems immediately. Your calls are critical to quickly identifying and responding to water emergencies. When we receive a call about a leak or break, several steps are taken.
Getting the Information. An operator will ask the caller questions to collect information about the location and severity of the situation. This information helps WSS staff respond effectively to the emergency.
Evaluating the Situation. When a crew arrives on site, they will determine if it is necessary to shut down the water main. In many cases, the main break itself may interrupt water service or reduce water pressure for customers.
Repairing the Main. When a water main break is confirmed, a crew will set up a work zone and detour traffic. The crew also will turn off the main (immediately if needed) and contact Miss Utility to mark the various utilities near the break as required by law. After the utilities have been marked, the crew will excavate and secure a trench and begin repairs.
Crews work continuously to repair breaks and restore water service, however, unforeseen challenges can arise causing the process to take longer, including:
• Old valves that do not operate properly
• Delays marking utilities or miss-marked utilities
• Working around other utilities ( gas, telephone, power or fiber optics)
• Unavailable equipment or parts
• Weather conditions
• Equipment problems
Notifying Residents. The WSS staff works with County leaders and communicators to inform residents and provide updates as needed. Sometimes customers will be notified directly via flyers. Other times we will utilize the County’s reverse 9-1-1 system, the emergency radio station 1700 AM and/or the County web site to provide notification about an emergency. In the case of a serious, wide-spread situation, the local media may be notified.
Residents may be asked to conserve water during the emergency. Here are some tips for Conserving Water during Emergencies.
When Water Service is Restored
In most cases, when the water pressure returns, you will need to run the cold water tap for a few minutes to clear the pipes. Use of hot water may draw discolored water into your hot water heater, prolonging a potential disruption. If after five minutes, you still notice a discoloration or strange odor, contact the water emergency hotline at 703-228-6555. A crew can be dispatched to flush the system through fire hydrants and/or at your meter location.
In the rare instance that additional actions are needed, residents will be informed directly through one of the communication channels mentioned above.
Arlington’s Water/Sewer/Streets Bureau
Our water distribution system is overseen by the Water/Sewer/Streets (WSS) Bureau within the Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services. WSS staff and crews work to ensure that the County’s water distribution system is properly maintained, monitored and operated.
The Water Control Center is the nerve center of the system with water operators on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year monitoring the status of our facilities, ensuring that the system is operating efficiently, and responding to after-hour emergencies.