Cold weather tips

PSA from Your Dog: Smart Deicing Tips to Protect the Environment and Pets

Did you know using too much salt and other ice-melting chemicals can hurt pet paws? Smart use of deicing products can also help minimize impacts on our watersheds.
Did you know using too much salt and other ice-melting chemicals can hurt pet paws? Smart use of deicing products can also help minimize impacts on our watersheds.

If you're the kind of person who thinks about the health of our urban watersheds, you've probably wondered if using too much salt on driveways and sidewalks can hurt Philly's rivers and creeks.

As snow piles up in the winter, we often turn to salt or other solutions to melt snow and ice as an important public safety measure that saves lives on our roadways every year.

Still, it's important to know that all deicers can be harmful to our water supply, the environment and even pets when overused. The best strategy is to read the labels and use as directed only when needed.

High concentrations of salt can damage and kill vegetation and harm freshwater ecosystems and fish. Excess salt can also seep into the ground and destroy soil structure, which can lead to erosion and further pollute waterways.

And, those heaps of caustic rock salt on sidewalks can also irritate sensitive pet paws, making a winter wonderland walk post-snowstorm much less fun for dogs like Shorty, seen at top.

Schuylkill River Trail Water Stations Closed for Winter

Four water stations along the Schuylkill River Trail between East Falls and the Fairmount Water Works were closed in November 2017 for winterization and will reopen spring 2018.
Water stations along Kelly Drive were closed following the Phila. Marathon for winterization and will reopen in spring 2018. Credit: Laura Copeland and Frank Gaffney, Philadelphia Water Department.

Following the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon, Philadelphia Water Department crews shut down and winterized all four Schuylkill River Trail water stations located between the Falls Bridge and Fairmount Water Works. The much-used features—offering fountains, bottle filling stations and ground-level bowls for dog walkers—are taken offline each winter to guard against freezing temperatures that can cause burst plumbing.

When spring temperatures allow, Water crews will perform maintenance, flushing and testing before restoring service to the stations.

First introduced in 2016, the stations provided trail users with more than 21,000 gallons of drinking water between late April and mid-November during the 2017 season. In terms of the volume of plastic, single-use bottles kept out of the waste stream, the stations distributed enough water to fill roughly 159,100 half-liter disposable bottles.

In addition to providing free access to top-quality drinking water for daily trail users, the water stations reduced waste and litter generated by marquee events held along Philadelphia’s scenic Schuylkill River waterfront.

The stations provided enough water to offset nearly 2,200 single-use plastic bottles during the 2017 Head of the Schuylkill Regatta alone. During the one-day Dragon Boat Festival, spectators and competitors drank enough Philly tap to fill nearly 1,700 16-ounce plastic bottles.

The Philadelphia Water Department is working with partners in the Office of Sustainability, Parks and Recreation, the School District, Public Health and other City departments to expand access to drinking water and promote Philadelphia’s top-quality water as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.

Increased access to drinking water stations will also encourage refillable bottle use, furthering the City’s Clean PHL anti-litter and Zero Waste initiatives.

To get alerts about water station openings, subscribe to Philadelphia Water Department alerts with your email and mobile number here.

Your Pipes Can Freeze Too!
Note: Homeowners should be winterizing their plumbing, too. From shutting off outdoor hose connections to insulating basement windows near the water meter, there are number of things homeowners can do to prevent extreme cold from causing damage that a can lead to frozen pipes, flooded basements, and costly repairs. You can check out some cold-weather tips here and in the video below. 


Keeping out the Cold from Philadelphia Water Department on Vimeo.

Winter is coming: Watch this cold-weather tips vid and avoid frozen pipes

The arrival of chilly nights means it's time to make sure your pipes are protected from cold winter temps that can cause frozen or burst pipes in your home or on your property.

While most plumbing is deep enough underground or insulated well enough within your home to avoid freezing, water meters and water service lines can freeze when the temperature drops below 32 degrees in some cases. This can cause water to stop flowing or pipes to burst. Take steps before winter to protect your pipes: check out our Cold Weather Tips quick-facts here, and get more info in this video:


Keeping out the Cold from Philadelphia Water Department on Vimeo.

 

If your pipes freeze
If you don’t have water during extreme cold, check your pipes before calling our hotline. Many customers mistakenly assume a water main is broken when their home’s pipes freeze and spend valuable time on the phone.

Unfortunately, we cannot thaw your frozen pipes. You may have to wait for the line to thaw or call a plumber. However, if you take the proper precautions and winterize your house, you will likely be able to keep your pipes inside from freezing. Our Cold Weather Tips quick-facts also provide info for dealing with frozen plumbing.

If you're sure your pipes aren't frozen and there's no water on your block/in your home, call our hotline at (215) 685-6300.

FALL TIP: Don't let the cold sneak up on you!

The first night of very cold temperatures can catch people off guard, and that can leave garden hoses or outside faucets that have been left on vulnerable to freezing and bursting. Often more than a headache and trip to the hardware store for new hose, these mishaps can cause real damage if the water continues to flow after the hose, hose bib or faucet breaks under pressure.

Avoid the risk: Just find the valve or handle that connects your inside plumbing to the outside faucet. It should be close to the spot on your wall where the outside water is accessible.

Freezing temps are here. It's time to shut off the water to your outside faucet and hose, which will burst in extreme cold.     

Kelly Drive Water Stations Head to Hibernation After a Thirsty Season

Schuylkill River Trail users fill up at one four water stations located along Kelly Drive. People filling up at the stations saved about 141,650 single-use half-liter disposable bottles this season. Credit: PWD
Schuylkill River Trail users fill up at one four water stations located along Kelly Drive. People filling up at the stations saved about 156,025 single-use half-liter disposable bottles this season. Credit: PWD

Following an enthusiastic welcome in spring and a summer of heavy use, we’ve winterized the four new water stations installed along the Kelly Drive stretch of the Schuylkill River Trail.

Shutting the stations down as we approach winter involves turning off the water, draining the lines, and giving each of the units a good cleaning. We know: it’s sad to see these amazing assets for trail users go into hibernation, but it’s a necessary precaution needed to make sure that extreme cold doesn’t lead to frozen and burst pipes during the colder months of the year.

Have Frozen Pipes? You Might Have to Call a Plumber

When bitter cold sets in like this, it's not uncommon for pipes to freeze.

We've been pushing out tips for prevention, but sometimes freezing occurs because home plumbing is above the frost line or pipes are near drafty basement windows. We're getting calls from some customers without water — but there's no water main break or other apparent issue in their area.

If this is happening to you, check with your neighbor and see if they have water. If the problem is isolated to your house, there's a good chance frozen pipes are to blame. If this happens:

The Great Melt Is Here ... Are Your Storm Drains Clear?

Now that snow is melting, it's very important to make sure storm drains are clear. We have crews on the job, but we could use a hand too. Credit: Philadelphia Water
Now that snow is melting, it's very important to make sure storm drains are clear. We have crews on the job, but we could use a hand too. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Winter Storm Jonas surely lived up to—and even exceeded—all the Snowpocalypse/Snowzilla hype.

That meant plenty of sledding and snowman building on Saturday and Sunday when it was cold. But with nearly two feet of snow now starting to melt, our winter wonderland is dissolving into a soupy mess that we want to make sure enters the inlets so it does not create roadway flooding or icing conditions as the frigid temperatures return each night.

Worried About Salt? Smart Winter Deicing Tips to Protect Rivers, Creeks and Pets

The beautiful Tacony Creek in winter. Smart use of deicing products can help minimize impacts on our watersheds. Credit: TTF Watershed Partnership.
The beautiful Tacony Creek in winter. Smart use of deicing products can help minimize impacts on our watersheds. Credit: TTF Watershed Partnership.

If you're the kind of person who thinks about the health of our urban watersheds, you've probably wondered if using too much salt on driveways and sidewalks can hurt Philly's rivers and creeks.

As snow piles up in the winter, we often turn to salt or other solutions to melt snow and ice as an important public safety measure that saves lives on our roadways every year.

Still, it's important to know that all deicers can be harmful to our drinking water supply and the environment when overused, so the best strategy is to read the labels and use as directed only when needed. High concentrations of salt can damage and kill vegetation and harm freshwater ecosystems and fish. Excess salt can also seep into the ground and destroy soil structure, which can lead to erosion and further pollute waterways.

Use these winter deicing tips to help protect our watersheds:

Be Ready: Frozen Pipes Are No Winter Wonderland

Check out the tips below and reduce your chances of having cold weather damamage to your home plumbing system.
Click the image above to check out some helpful tips that can reduce your chances of having cold weather damage your home plumbing system.

Extreme cold can cause pipes and the ground to expand and contract, and very cold river water can also make water mains more brittle. In part, those factors can help to explain why more than half of Philadelphia’s water main breaks occur during the coldest months in a typical year.

But our more than 3,000 miles of water mains aren’t alone when it comes to feeling the impacts of Old Man Winter.

Cold Weather Tips from PWD

With temperatures dipping into the single digits this week, it’s a great time to share our cold weather tips for winterizing your water system. Early action can help you avoid costly repairs to your pipes and water meter. Here are our tips to keep out the cold:

1. Identify the location of the shut-off valves for your water main, usually near the water meter. In emergencies, use the house-side shutoff valve to shut off your water supply.

2. Keep water meter above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. When cold air blows on a pipe, it is at risk of freezing. Reduce that risk by repairing or replacing broken windows, covering windows with plastic and caulking windows near water meters and pipes.

4. Wrap and insulate all water pipes in unheated areas, like your basement. Pay close attention to pipes near exterior walls, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.
5. In extremely cold weather, let water run overnight at a trickle. Moving water will help prevent the pipes from freezing.
6. Disconnect garden hoses and winterize the outdoor faucet. 


If you plan to be away from home or own a property that is vacant for an extended period of time,  drain and winterize your home plumbing system. 

The first sign of freezing pipes is reduced water flow from a faucet, so check your faucets for flow and pressure before you go to sleep and again when you wake up. If you do experience low pressure and suspect your pipes are frozen, check with a neighbor to make sure the problem is isolated to your home. 

  • Do not apply direct heat to the pipes. If your pipes or water meter freeze, use a space heater or hair dryer to heat the area. 
  • Make sure the faucets is turned on so melting water can drip out.
  • After your pipes thaw, look to see if your pipes are cracked or damaged and make sure to take the necessary precautions to prevent freezing from happening again. 
  • You may want to engage the services of a licensed, registered plumber. 

  • Shut off water with the house-side water main valve near your water meter.
  • If the break is in a hot water pipe, close the valve on top of the water heater.
  • Call a licensed and registered plumber to to repair the broken pipe. 

If your pipes freeze, PWD is not responsible and is not able to help. Protecting your pipes and water meter from the cold is well worth the effort and will ensure your water flows through the winter. 

Check out this video for more. 


Keeping out the Cold from Philadelphia Water Department on Vimeo.

To get a printable, .pdf version of these tips, click here

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