Water Ruptures Burst City Budget

DUBUQUE – Spring is in the air, but the effects of winter are still lingering in Dubuque.

Water main breaks seem to be popping up all throughout the city and now these bursts have started to break city budgets. Dubuque officials estimate the final bill will reach $850,000. That is more than double the $350,000 in the annual budget.

It was a typical Friday in February when Zach Gries’ headache began. The Loras College alumnus had just gotten home from work when his neighbor warned him to check his basement. Gries went inside and found many of his belongings destroyed, including his grandfather’s canoe.

A pipe located 100 yards away from his home had erupted, causing many basement floods on his street.

“Sure enough, I had about a foot and a half of water. It looked pretty dark; it wasn’t transparent. I couldn’t see the bottom of my basement,” Gries said.

Gries is one of the hundreds of people in Dubuque this year dealing with water main ruptures. Bob Green, Dubuque’s Water Plant Manager, said there has been a total of 108 main breaks so far this year compared to only 61 the same time last year.

Usually frost goes four feet down in the ground, but this year frost went down a staggering six feet, according to Green. The culprit is the severe winter weather that the Dubuque area has been experiencing this year. Frost is causing the soil to move and disturb the water pipes.

“You start having issues with the cold weather penetrating the ground, causing freezing conditions… And that is basically what creates stress on the pipe, which is what causes it to break,” Green explained.

The warm weather isn’t going to stop the water main breaks. Once the frost starts to melt in the ground, it will move the pipes once more. The city says there isn’t much they can do to prevent the breaks — so they’re asking for patience.

“We have had a severe amount of water main breaks this year. I know that it has been an inconvenience to the people we serve,” said Green. “I would like to thank the people of Dubuque for their patience and understanding as we are out there day and night in all weather conditions with crews working to get the services restored.”


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