Predicting water main breaks

​Every year mother nature takes its best shot at northern Illinois
bringing snow, ice and rain to every crack and crevice of our
infrastructure. During the cold weather months, changes in temperature
and moisture are continually creating a freeze and thaw cycle that
batters our roads producing potholes and other concerns beneath the
surface.

Considering that water mains reside below the surface of streets,
sidewalks and driveways they are subject to heavy stress during the
winter due to the freezing and thawing cycles that continually move the
earth’s surface. Since water mains are not flexible, the slight movement
of earth can cause tiny fractures and even eventual breaks. Once a
fracture is created it most likely prone to break at some point in the
future. Although this has been happening for years it is not until the
implementation of the Geographic Information System (GIS) Department at
the Village of Lincolnwood that research was done to attempt to
indentify and predict where these breaks would happen. Whether it is the
same pipe that continuously breaks every year or it is a water main
that has never been broken since its installation the idea of tracking
this information made GIS a viable option for analyzing this information
within the village. As breaks occur every month they can be mapped out
and stored within a GIS database for geographical location positions.
Once the data has a position on the earth it is much easier to identify
larger areas that contain a higher density of breaks or analyze why a
certain area may have no water main breaks at all. From there,
preventative measures such as replacing pipes or increasing the pipe
size can be looked into as a method to limit the cost of repairs future
water pipe repairs.

GIS creates an environment that can easily analyze geographic data
and help facilitate decision making. By keeping records of all water
main breaks in the GIS, the Village of Lincolnwood was able to locate
and analyze problem areas as well as plan better for the future.