Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.

Customer Service: 503-823-7770


More Contact Info

Main Break Season 101: What to Expect, Who to Call, and How to Prepare

Game of Thrones Meme: Main break season is coming...Main break season is officially here.

It’s that time of year when cold temperatures mix with aging water pipes. Cold air, and cold water, can cause old pipes to become brittle and sometimes crack and burst, sending water into streets and keeping our Maintenance and Construction crews busy fixing broken mains.

Anatomy of a Main Break

Portland has 2,200 miles of water pipe; many of them are around a century old. These pipes run under our streets and sidewalks, channeling water from city reservoirs to homes and taps across the metro area.

Our crews actively replace and repair old water pipes throughout the year, but, when cold snaps and freezing temps come to visit, things can go awry.

A main break occurs when a crack or a hole develops in one of these water main pipes. Sometimes water main breaks can be a slow leak, other times they can cause pools of water to form on city streets.

Temperatures are just one factor in causing a main break. The age of a pipe, soil conditions, pipe corrosion, and ground movement can also cause a main to weaken over time and break.

Prepare Your Home

Burst water pipes don’t just occur under city streets. Outdoor spigots, faucets, and irrigation systems are also susceptible to breaking and busting in cold weather.

Protect your home and avoid costly repairs by taking a few steps to winter-proof your home plumbing.

Be A Main Break Lookout

See water running from streets or sidewalks?

Spot a waterspout in the middle of the road?

Be a main break lookout! Help us find leaks before they cause significant damage or inconvenience for neighbors.

Report the leak to the Water Bureau’s 24-hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874.