Various factors lead to rise in water main breaks

by Steve Ramirez, originally posted on July 8, 2016


LAS CRUCES – As Las Cruces’ temperatures continue to climb into triple digits so do the number of water line breaks across the city.

The latest happened Thursday along a portion of Stern Drive. It didn’t turn out to be one, but two water outages that happened near each other.

Thursday’s outages, which affected about 100 city of Las Cruces water utilities customers, shut off water — and likely air conditioning, for those with swamp coolers — on Stern Drive, and homes in the College Manor subdivision including: Old Farm Road, North Park Drive, Yale Drive, Yale Court, Purdue Court, Drake Court, Dartmouth Avenue, Carreon Place, and Vassar Court.

“It was a little unpleasant,” said Mike Gaines, a New Mexico State University student, who lives on Dartmouth Avenue. “No water, no AC (air conditioning); it was a good day to go to the movies and hide from it.”

Adrienne Widmer, Las Cruces Utilities Water Resources Section administrator, said an initial water main break on Stern Drive was repaired Thursday morning. But by late afternoon another water line break occurred south of the original break on Stern.

“It was fixed by about 10 p.m.,” Widmer said.

The city has experienced a higher than average number of water outages lately. On June 15, a 12-inch water main broke near Picacho Avenue and Third Street. It took Water Resources Section crews about eight hours to fix the water main.

The water from that ruptured line forced a Las Cruces woman and her two sons from the nearby duplex where they were living.

A day later, a contractor hit a water line near the intersection of Fourth Street and Brownlee Avenue. It took Water Resources Section crews about three hours to fix that break.

The rash of water line breaks isn’t that uncommon.

“They can happen every time of the year,” Widmer said. “They just don’t happen because the weather gets hot or cold. They can happen when lines, especially in older neighborhoods, get older. … It doesn’t seem like we have had this many breaks, in any given time, in about a year.”

As water service is restored, affected residents could notice discolored water because of the settling of sediments in water lines that were shut off. The water is suitable for drinking, but residents who want to do laundry should flush water lines in their homes for about five minutes to clear any discoloration.

If water remains discolored after flushing lines, residents should call 575-526-0500.

The city is also working on a number of projects to replace water and other utility lines. Earlier this week, Water Resources Section crews closed Spruce Avenue at Virginia Street for maintenance of water lines at that intersection. During that work, water had to be turned off to nearby homes and businesses for about four hours.

Traffic in that area has been limited the past two weeks to one lane eastbound and westbound.

A block south, on Piñon Avenue between Mesquite Street and Virginia Street, city crews have been replacing all utility lines on that street, including water lines. The same thing has been happening on Court Avenue and on much of Boston Drive, near Conlee Elementary School. The extensive excavation and road work is happening in older city neighborhoods.

Even the city’s online utility payment system is getting a makeover. From 1 p.m. Friday, July 15, until 8 a.m. Monday, July 18, city utilities customers will not be able to pay their bills online due to software upgrades to the payment system. During the upgrade, customers can make payments by calling 866-426-9757 and follow the payment prompts.

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