Water mains are underground pipes that move water from municipal reservoirs and pumping stations to your street. In the municipalities of Greater Vancouver, there are thousands of kilometres of water mains and dozens of pumping stations. Municipal water mains are impressive “subways” for water. When they’re all in good repair and working, voila! The water comes into your home, the water goes out, worry-free. But they aren’t fail-safe.

A clog, a break, or a broken pump can cause chaos: disrupting traffic, closing streets, and threatening your property. The water main is under pressure, so the flow continues until crews control the break. So, sometimes damage has been done before the problem is detected.


The soil in some municipalities and areas is highly conductive, causing the water main’s metallic pipe to corrode from the outside in. This weakened pipe is especially vulnerable to extreme weather changes, which cause the ground to swell and contract. The intense pressure on water mains causes an already weakened pipe to burst. However, water main breaks can occur at other times of the year, too. Hot, dry summers, and unusually wet summers, for example, can also contribute to water main breaks.

In most situations, city crews can repair a water main within 24 hours. Municipal water main problems don’t always confine themselves to city-owned land. Sometimes you’ll notice the issue on city land, but you may notice issues on your own property that are signs of municipal water main breaks.

Some telltale signs of city water main breaks in public areas:

  • Water gushing out of a manhole cover
  • Wet ground or soil on public property when the area is usually dry
  • Water bubbling up on the street, boulevard, or sidewalk


City Mains

In Vancouver, homeowners can call 3-1-1 to request a city crew to investigate a water or sewer problem. Outside of Vancouver, you should call your local city hall or municipal authority.

When a city water main breaks, it may affect your property. Watch for these signs in your home and yard, but remember that the source for the following issues may actually be somewhere within your home’s own drainage system– and therefore your responsibility. These signs are:

  • Water bubbling up on your home’s lawn or yard
  • Plumbing fixtures in your basement draining slowly or making bubbling sounds
  • Overflowing basement toilets, floor or shower drains, tubs or sinks
  • Sounds of water running in your home’s pipes when you’ve closed all the taps


Where is the problem?

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the source of the problem lies: the city’s water mains or your property’s drainage system. Your yard has its own main water line and branches controlling the flow of water to and from your home. If you have a saturated lawn or a loss of water pressure, the problem may originate on your property. If so, you’ll likely be charged for the service call by the city.

Plumbing and drainage issues that likely originate on your property include:

  • An overflowing toilet, floor or shower drain, tub or sink located on a floor above basement level
  • An overflowing stormwater sump
  • A leak in your crawl space
  • Water seeping in through your basement’s walls or foundation and pooling on the floor
  • Sewer odour inside your home

If your issues are on the above list, it’s much more likely that you’ll need a plumber or drainage expert. Not sure where the problem originates? Save yourself some potentially hefty charges from your municipality and call us at Groundhog Excavating. We’ll track the source and give you a free quote and expert advice on fixing the problem. Solutions include repairing the line at the leak or excavating to replace the entire pipe with a new one. We’re ready to help– now!

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