In order to prepare for extended periods of very cold weather, La Crosse water customers should be aware of and prepare for possible problems related to the water system.
The water service or “lateral” is the pipe that connects a home or business to the City’s municipal water supply. Under extended, severe weather conditions, the water pipe in the ground can freeze. Interior piping can also freeze when exposed to extended, cold temperatures in basements, cellars, crawl spaces and similar locations.
A simple way customers can help to avoid problems with frozen water services is to routinely run water from an interior, cold-water tap for about five minutes, two or three times each day, especially during periods when there is usually little water use. Reduced pressure and/or discolored water may be signs the water service is starting to freeze. If those signs are noticed, run cold water until the pressure and water clarity return to normal. Another preventative action is to run a small, continuous stream of cold water, about the diameter of a pencil, overnight and during extended periods when little or no water use is anticipated.
Interior piping and the water meter inside homes and businesses can freeze and burst if they are not protected. Interior areas must be adequately heated to protect plumbing from freezing. Openings to the outside must be closed and properly insulated to eliminate cold air entry. Similarly, repair broken windows, check doors, and insulate areas where cold air can leak in from the outside.
Meters and interior piping located near outside walls or foundations should be insulated to prevent freezing. If insulation will not provide adequate protection, wrap pipes with heat tape or heat cables. These products plug into power outlets and generate heat to prevent freezing. Purchase products that are Underwriter Laboratory (UL) Listed or approved by a similar independent testing agency, and install these items following manufacturers’ instructions. Unapproved or improperly installed products can cause fires. Inspect heat tape or cable for wear and replace when necessary.
Remove hoses from outside faucets and close the valves inside the house that control those faucets.
If a frozen, interior pipe is suspected, turn off the water at the main valve inside your home (located at the water meter) and call a plumber. A hair dryer or portable heater can be used to try to thaw the frozen pipe but stay alert for potential electric shocks if standing water is present. DO NOT TRY TO THAW A PIPE WITH A TORCH OR OPEN FLAME.
When away from home for a few days, keep the thermostat set at 55 degrees or higher. Have a friend check your house periodically to make sure the heat stays on and there are no water-related or other issues. When extended stays away from home are planned, consider having the water shut-off, the meter removed, and the interior plumbing drained and winterized by a licensed plumber.
Monitor vacant properties in your neighborhood that might be especially susceptible to freezing problems. Contact the Water Utility if you observe or suspect a problem.
City residents are also asked to keep an eye on fire hydrants near their properties to make sure the hydrants are clear of snow and accessible to the Fire Department in the event of a fire emergency.
Please contact the La Crosse Water Utility (608/789-7536) with any questions.