Welcome to Virginia American Water’s Alexandria Page
About Your Water System
We provide water service to approximately 26,000 residential and business customers in the City of Alexandria. While we own and operate the distribution system, we buy the water already treated from Fairfax Water. The source of your water is the Potomac River and Occoquan Reservoir. The water is disinfected with chloramines, which is a mix of chlorine and ammonia. Chloramine is a very effective disinfectant that does not have a strong bleach taste or smell, and produces fewer by-products than free chlorine. Each spring when we flush the lines to remove sediment and test hydrants, Fairfax Water switches disinfectant to free chlorine for a few weeks, which helps clean the system, but has a stronger bleach taste and odor.
For questions regarding your wastewater service or bill, please contact AlexRenew at 703-549-3381.
Investments in Your System
Every year, we invest in Alexandria’s water infrastructure to replace and repair aging pipes and valves. From 2012 to 2015 we invested approximately $53 million in our systems throughout the state. Infrastructure investments are made in order of priority –starting with some of the oldest or problematic pipes, and working our way from there.
Main breaks will continue to occur, as we work to replace the city’s century-old system. While they can be an inconvenience, we do our best to identify and repair them as quickly as we can, with as little disruption to your daily routine as possible.
Despite all the investments to maintain and replace the system, your water is still a great value, at just about a penny per gallon. We’re such strong believers in the value of water, that our parent company, American Water, is a partner in the Value of Water Coalition, a group of leading organizations responsible for ensuring the safety, reliability and sustainability of our nation’s water. Together, we have launched a new campaign to inform Americans about the value of water and the challenges facing our water infrastructure. Read more about the campaign at www.thevalueofwater.org.
Main Break FAQs
If our crews locate a water main or service line break near your home, repairs may temporarily affect your water service. Since we know that any disruption to your water service is an inconvenience, we’ve prepared this information to answer some of the questions you may have.
What causes a water main to leak or break?
Water main breaks generally occur when there is movement in the ground or a big change in water temperature. When the soil shrinks or swells, it puts a lot of tension on water pipes and can make them snap across the diameter of the pipe as soil tries to bend or shift the pipe position under its weight.
Freezing and thawing of soil creates a lot of movement. We install our pipes below the frost line to avoid not only the freezing of water in the pipe, but also the excessive movement of soil. This tension is increased when water temperature drops, usually starting in October, when the cold temperature further contracts the pipe material. That is why our "main break season" typically starts in October, and continues through the winter.
In Alexandria, there are a number of Marine clays which shrink and swell more than typical soils due to changing moisture content. Big changes in rainfall cause big changes in their volume. Therefore Marine clays are a problem all year due to the high degree of shrinking and swelling, and in some areas of Alexandria, have caused problems with building foundations and roadways. With these soils, it is also common for us to get breaks in the summer.
Some water mains crack or leak because they have reached their useful life. Alexandria’s water system was started in 1850, prior to the Civil War, so much of the City’s pipes are due for replacement. Virginia American Water has an ongoing infrastructure renewal program where we look at aging infrastructure, changing fire flow requirements, water quality, and maintenance history to replace old water mains each year.
During main breaks, Virginia American Water posts updates on its website, Facebook and Twitter. We also use a high-speed mass notification system called "CodeRED" to keep customers informed about water-related emergencies and notifications. Log on to My Account to make sure your contact information is up to date. While you're there, tell us how you prefer to receive your alerts and notifications: phone; text and phone; and/or email.
What is Virginia American Water doing to prevent main breaks?
Virginia American Water continuously monitors, maintains and upgrades our systems in order to improve water service reliability, water pressure and fire protection.
Since 2012, Virginia American Water has invested millions on capital expenditures to improve infrastructure throughout the state. Even as we make these investments, our tap water costs about a penny a gallon – an exceptional value!
Water infrastructure also is an important national issue, as increased demand from a growing population meets an aging, under-funded infrastructure. The nation’s water systems have earned a D-minus grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers, and U.S. EPA projects that as much as $335 billion will need to be invested over the next 20 years if we are to keep clean water reliably at the tap. Our parent company, American Water, is at the forefront of research and developing solutions to ensure a sustainable water future for our customers.
Your safety, as well as the safety of your neighbors and our workers is important to us. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-452-6863.
How long will the repairs take?
The length of time to make repairs depends on a number of factors, including:
Length of time for Miss Utility to arrive.
By law, we must call 8-1-1 (Miss Utility) to request professional locators who mark the pavement for underground gas, electric or sewer lines. We cannot excavate and begin repairs until the pavement is marked.
How quickly we are able to locate the break.
Once the pavement is marked, we drill into the pavement to locate the leak or main break. Water can travel far underground before surfacing, so some breaks are easier to find than others.
The nature of the leak.
Until we excavate and uncover the leak we won’t know whether the problem is with a valve or the main pipe. Sometimes we can make the repair with a “sleeve” around a leak, but other times we must replace a valve or an entire section of pipe. Sometimes there are other utilities in the way that complicate repairs.
Crews work as quickly as possible, and in most cases, are able to complete the repair in four to eight hours. Once the main break is repaired, the excavated area must be backfilled and pavement temporarily restored. The temporary restoration is rough but serviceable, and will be completed with permanent restoration at a later time.
Will my water be shut off?
Water in our pipes is under pressure, but when possible, we can make the repair without shutting off the water. However, when the flow of pressurized water is too great, we need to temporarily shut off the water during the repair work. We apologize for this inconvenience and work as quickly as possible to minimize the disruption.
Is water quality affected?
Usually water quality is not affected by the leak. If we suspect there is a possibility that water quality has been affected, we will issue a precautionary boil water notice. This notice will stay in effect until we have time to verify water quality in the laboratory, at which time the precautionary boil water notice will be lifted. However, please note that when water service is restored, you may notice air in your pipes and the water may be rusty, or yellow brown in color. Rust particles accumulate in water mains and can be stirred up as valves are operated and water flow patterns are changed. The discoloration isn’t harmful but can stain. We typically flush out the water main after repairs to remove air and rust, but are unable to flush out your individual service line. Just let the water run a few minutes in your home to get rid of the air and color. If the problem persists, let us know at 1-800-452-6863, and we will flush the main again.
When will permanent pavement restoration of the area occur?
Permanent restoration usually takes place several weeks after the leak is repaired to allow time for any additional settling that may occur as the ground dries out. We check the integrity of the temporary restoration on a regular basis, but if you see settling or “pot holes” develop, please let us know at 1-800-452-6863.