The six separate main breaks which occurred in Tempe during 2022. (Map via Google Maps)

Tempe’s aging water pipes continue to fail

Between February and September of 2022, there have been six separate water main breaks along Tempe streets and the nearby highway off the U.S. 60 and McClintock Drive with millions of gallons of water wasted and havoc created for commuters. 

 The most significant water break happened on the early morning of May 7, when a 24 inch water transmission line burst near the U.S. 60 westbound off-ramp at McClintock Drive.

The incident wasted approximately 8 million gallons of water and closed the freeway in both directions for 8 days, with final repairs expected to continue until the end of October. The transmission line was 50 years old, but was expected to last for 75 years. 

Tempe’s infrastructure is made up of miles of arterial water transmission lines, which supply clean water to almost 200,000 people. However, these lines then spread into smaller water distribution lines that run along city streets and neighborhoods. 

Distribution lines along Tempe’s portion of Southern Avenue have suffered from three separate water main breaks this year, with the most recent on Sept. 18 near Evergreen road

The break delayed students commuting to and from Mesa Community College’s Southern and Dobson campus, and was the first of two water main breaks to happen on the same day in Tempe.

Water main pipes along Southern Avenue and Baseline Road are some of the oldest in Tempe, according to their municipal utilities department, with some portions of pipes near the most recent break dated at anywhere between 75 and 56 years old. 

Five out of the six documented leaks between February and September occurred in areas near Southern Avenue and Baseline Road, between Rural Road and the Tempe Canal.

In response to the reactive nature of repairs to broken water mains, city of Tempe officials said they have implemented a “systematic process” to inspect the state of their water infrastructure. 

“The City of Tempe inspects lines throughout the community with an eye to preventing water main breaks”, says Kris Baxter-Ging, a Public Information Officer with the city of Tempe. 

Water main breaks in Tempe have been responsible for an unprecedented amount of wasted water in a state that is still suffering from a long term drought

Tempe’s neighboring city of Mesa has already entered the first stage of a “Water Shortage Management Plan”, which focuses on limiting excessive water usage at city facilities, but leaves the door open for future restrictions.      Information about current freeway closures related to the ongoing U.S. 60 water main repair  can be found on the city’s dedicated page to the incident.

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