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March 04, 2014 | 05:18 PM
Lake Geneva’s weather hasn’t just been cold this winter.

It’s been a deep freeze.

And by deep, the Lake Geneva Water Utility Commission estimates it at six feet deep.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the city is asking residents to keep one faucet running to keep water service lines from freezing.

Water service lines are the pipes that carry water from the city main to individual homes and businesses.

The Lake Geneva Regional News has been running the notice on its website since last week.

In Lake Geneva, as in all communities, water lines are buried about six feet deep, said Dan Winkler, city utility director. He said frost in southeastern Wisconsin usually penetrates to four or four-and-a-half feet.

But this year’s winter has been brutally cold, and frost is now penetrating to six feet and below. Water lines have become a high risk for freeze-up and damage, he said.

“I’m hearing a majority of water utilities have issued similar notices throughout southeastern Wisconsin,” Winkler said.

So far this year, the utility crews have responded to 10 main breaks, 40 water main freeze-ups and 20 service line freeze-ups, Winkler said.

By comparison, over the past 20 years, the city has averaged five or six water main breaks in a winter and five or six frozen water meters, Winkler said. The city had just one service line freeze-up in the last four years.

To help prevent a frozen water service line, city water utility customers were asked to turn on and let run a cold water faucet.

The stream of water should be a minimum of 1/16-inch (about the thickness of a pencil lead) and a maximum of 1/8-inch (distance between tines at the end of a dinner fork).

That will be enough to keep water flowing through the pipe and prevent a freeze-up, Winkler said.

While the city utility usually takes care of service line freeze-ups, during extremely cold winters, public utility rules allow city utilities to post a warning, which then puts the onus on the property owners.

Customers who do not comply with this request would be responsible for the cost of repairs to the lateral line, including excavation, street restoration, lawn restoration, thawing of ice from the water service line, parts and labor, and any other expenses incurred by the water utility.

And such costs can run into the thousands of dollars, Winkler said. He estimated repair to a service line alone can cost between $1,000 to $4,000.

Winkler said the utility has estimated that keeping a thin stream of water flowing from March 1 to March 31 would cost the average resident $14 a month.

Winkler said the utility commission’s billing software is able to average out customers and calculate refunds.

Winkler said the refunds for the extra water use in March would appear on the July water bills.

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