Water Main Breaks Dramatically Decline

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Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Rudy S. Chow, P.E., announced today that the number of water main breaks in the Baltimore City water service area declined significantly in the just-completed fiscal year, continuing a downward trend. The total number of water main breaks finished below 1,000 per year for the first time in recent memory.

Final numbers for the 2016 fiscal year, ended June 30, show a 32 percent decline over FY 2015, and a 39 percent decline over FY 2014. This positive trend comes as DPW has focused on proactive management of its infrastructure and significantly stepped up the pace of water main renewal and replacement.

The total numbers of water main breaks for the past three fiscal years are as follows:

Fiscal Year

Water main breaks







“While we still have a long way to go in addressing our aging water infrastructure, I am very encouraged by this trend,” said Director Chow. “We knew that we needed to be aggressive in our water main renewal efforts, and our actions are paying dividends.”

Baltimore’s water system has more than 4,000 miles of water mains, and the average age of those mains is 75 years. Some of these mains date to before the American Civil War (1861-1865). They are mostly made of cast or ductile iron, and some of the largest mains are of pre-stressed concrete. 

Baltimore City, along with neighboring Baltimore County, has taken proactive steps to replace and rehabilitate these water mains. Director Chow set a goal of renewing 15 miles of water mains annually, up sharply from less than five miles in previous years. During the 2016 fiscal year DPW renewed 19 miles of water mains. Water main replacement work is continuing, with more projects in the pipeline.

In addition to accelerating the overall water main replacement program, DPW is paying special attention to the largest water mains, which can impact large areas and cause major damage if they fail. By using the latest technologies, engineers are able to detect potential problems and resolve them proactively.

Installing new water mains is expensive, costing between $1.5 million to $2 million per mile. And the process can be disruptive to traffic and neighbors. But by investing in new infrastructure, DPW aims to continue driving down the number of water main breaks – and the headaches that come with these failures – while providing long-term security for the water system and its customers.


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The Baltimore City Department of Public Works supports the health, environment, and economy of our City and region by cleaning our neighborhoods and waterways and providing its customers with safe drinking water and sustainable energy practices.