We woke yesterday to no water, this is only the second time in nearly 20 years of living up here that it has happened. We get used to no electricity, but no water is a bit different. We were lucky the Giotto was filled, dealing with a waterless morning is way more acceptable with the aid of caffeine, lots of caffeine in the form of Maple Cappuccinos, even better.
We are on city water and our water main, down the middle of the road, is about 5 feet deep. The first time I froze was two years ago, also in late February. After 5 months of winter, the cold has finally pushed down to the main and our little tap, there it performed its evil task and left us dry. Our water main is about 6″ and our house tap is 3/4″, both pretty typical for the size of our neighborhood.
I have considered my self lucky compared to some of my neighbors, who see their taps freeze a few times every winter. There is a stretch of our road where the main is even shallower, and that area is in the curve of the hill where the sun rarely touches it all winter. Ideally the main should be 7 to 8 feet deep for our climate and terrain. The city guys have been adding to the road there little by little, but to build up three feet is a project that will alter the driveways to most of the residents along that stretch.
Since I am not on the short list for frequent freezes, my tap was just as it was when it was installed back in ’72. When it was dug out 2 years ago, they added a “thaw cable”, a thaw cable is a heavy gauge wire that is clamped to the tap (mine is 4 strand 00 gauge) and directed up to near the surface. The end of this wire is feed through a short length of square pipe. The pipe serves the purpose of location assistance with the metal detector type probe. Once found and dug up, a device much like an arc welder is hooked up to it and a pipe at my house, the unit then sends a large electric current (about 130 amps) through this loop. The current warms the underground pipe, much like the filament in an incandescent bulb, but a much lower level. As the pipe is warmed the ice inside melts and flow is restored. Pretty cool trick eh?
When they buried the pipe marker last time, they took some measurements to pin point its location. These were based off the corners of my house some 60 to 70 feet away. This rough triangulation plus the help of the metal detector thing gave a location for the guy to dig. They said the metal detector was not working up to its original specs. Combine this with some less than perfect triangulation…and we had a miss. In the effort to find the pipe / thaw wire the newer city guy dug up our buried phone cable..me and every body else down the road, are now without phone internet etc. Oops!
An emergency call to Qwest got the ball rolling for this repair. We did find the thaw cable (the fatter wire running left to right in the above pic) about 1/2 hour later with the help of some digital pics I took last time, and more detector work. They hooked up the welder thingy and after about 15 minutes the water was flowing. To improve for “next time” a piece of wire was added to the main thaw cable and routed to the side of the road and wrapped around a “t” post set in the ground. If we need to perform this operation again, we can do it without any digging. The neighbors that see more frequent freezes than me have these set up too.
Qwest showed up later in the afternoon and put a splice patch on that tangled mess of wire in the hole. Phone and internet were back just before dinner time. As it sits this morning we still have a big hole in our road…with a few exposed repair strips….but the water and the DSL are flowing. Qwest will later install some type of housing around the terminal strips and seal it all up, then the city can fill the hole.