As Dubuque’s forecast calls for continued bitterly cold temperatures, the City of Dubuque Water Department is reminding customers to make sure that the plumbing lines and water meter in their home or business are properly protected from freezing.

When outdoor temperatures drop below freezing and especially when they drop below zero for an extended period of time, property owners may need to take precautions to protect their water meter and the water lines inside their home or building from freezing. Water lines in basements, unheated crawl spaces, and outside walls may be especially susceptible to freezing.  Here are some tips to protect against potentially costly plumbing issues.

Protect your water meter:  If your water meter is located in an unheated or minimally
heated area, such as a crawl space or garage, make sure it is properly covered or
protected to keep it from freezing. The meter is your responsibility and you are liable for
any damage to the meter.

Eliminate drafts:  Close crawl space vents and openings. Repair broken or cracked
windows. Make sure basement doors close tightly.

Insulate pipes in unheated areas:  Wrapping electrical heat tape or insulation around
pipes that run through crawl spaces, garages, or unheated basements may help prevent
freezing. It is also important to remember that both hot and cold water lines may freeze.

Open cabinet doors below sinks:  If a sink is located against an outside wall, opening cabinet doors below the sink can help warm air get to the pipes. This may also reduce the chances that a drain pipe will freeze.

If the previous tips do not help, and you continue to experience a frozen water line or meter, consider allowing your water to run.  Leaving a small but steady stream of lukewarm water running will keep the water moving through the pipes. (The City does not offer a water bill credit if you choose to let the water run.)

Customers are also encouraged to located the master shut-off in side their home or business and verify that it works properly.  The master shut-off is usually located near the place where the water service line enters your house. If it does not work, it may need to be repaired or replaced. Consider tagging the valve handle a bright color and tell family members where it is. Then, if a pipe freezes and breaks, you can turn the water off at the master shut-off valve.

If you turn on the tap on a cold day and no water comes out, your water lines may have frozen. Before doing anything, you may want to check with your neighbors to find out if they have water. If they are also without water, please call the City of Dubuque Water Department at 563.589.4291 to determine if a water main in your area is under repair.  If there is no repair work being done, or the neighbors have water, you may have a frozen pipe in your house or in the water service line under your yard.

If you know where the frozen line is and it is inside your building, you may be able to thaw the pipe. Thawing should be done slowly to avoid bursting the pipe. One suggestion is to wrap the frozen section with an approved electrical heat tape. Be ready to shut off water at the master shut-off it the pipe breaks.

If you cannot determine where the freeze is located, or if you believe it is in the water
line outside your building, you will need to call a plumber. If your plumber cannot locate
the freeze and thaw it, they may need to call City Utilities for assistance. However, it is
property owner’s responsibility to attempt to resolve the issue first.