In extremely cold temperatures, it is possible for poorly insulated or shallow water services to freeze. You may notice this through a drop in water pressure or there may be no water at all. It is also possible for the water meter itself to freeze, which can damage the meter.

If you suspect frozen water service, call the City of Cambridge Public Works department and one of our licensed water operators can help. If water is frozen on private property, homeowners will have to contact a plumber to have the service thawed. If the water meter is frozen and damaged, we'll need to install a new water meter.

If freezing occurs on the private side of the property line, the City may charge the homeowner for the cost to restore water service. Learn more about water and sewer lines on private and public property.

Why has my water service frozen?

Most water services are buried deep in the ground for protection against frost. Older water service lines were installed at a shallow depth compared to today's standards. Extremely cold temperatures or fluctuations between cold and warm temperatures can sometimes push frost to a depth that will freeze water service lines. Extreme cold temperatures can also cause internal freezing where service would not normally be interrupted.

Preventing frozen water services

The following tips can help prevent your water service lines from freezing:

  • Insulate pipes most likely to freeze (those near outside walls, in crawl spaces or attics)
  • Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside, especially in areas that are near pipes, use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out and the heat in
  • Apply low-wattage pipe wrap heating or space heating
  • Leave a cold water tap running slowly at a level just above a drip, this will increase your water consumption but may reduce costs for repairing frozen pipes and meters
  • If you're away, have someone check the house daily to ensure the heat is on and that no problems occur
  • If you're shutting off the main water valve coming into the house, ensure that the water is drained by opening the lowest tap

How can I correct frozen pipe problems permanently?

If your water service line on your property has frozen in the past, the best solution is to lower your service line to a depth that can't be penetrated by frost. The City requires new service lines be buried at a minimum depth of 1.5 meters (5 feet). Contact us for more information.