Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Corey Carpenter makes this connection here…

The article “Downtown water main break cost Minneapolis at least $325,000” describes how a backhoe ruptured a water main which flooded downtown Minneapolis and halted downtown businesses. Distribution of water was stopped due to the drop in water pressure. A temporary above ground distribution system was put into place the following day.  Flooding water was diverted into the nearby Mississippi River.  This was the most costly water main break in US history.  Initial estimations of $325,000 do not take into account the cost of the dozens of cars that were destroyed in the flood or the abrupt halt of business throughout the city. Another article wrote that information regarding water main breaks and their associated expenditures may cause water utility prices to increase (Wood & Lence).  Minnesota is having trouble delegating the costs to the guilty parties at hand.  If water utilities were to increase, some of the money would go to insurance for pipe breaks. However, the Star Tribune article left out details about our nation’s deteriorating pipe network system.


Worker Tim Green kept a Minneapolis pedestrian dry after a water main break Jan. 3 around Washington and Hennepin Avenues, near the U.S. post office. Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

The broader context of economics is impacted by the water main break because the flooding cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and water diversion.  Additional costs to the estimate include the destruction of motor vehicles and the loss of business caused by the traffic jams, lack of water in the distribution network and streets flooding.  The costs are paid by the city from an insurance budget, but that budget must be refilled.  A similar incident occurred in Lake Station, Indiana.  A water main broke and left residents without water.  A water main break causes the loss of water to nearby buildings.


Brandt, Steve and David Chanen, “Downtown water main break cost Mpls. at least $325,000.” Star Tribune, January 24th, 2013. http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/188299781.html?refer=y

Deborah Laverty and Lauri Havey Keagle, “Lake Station water main break leaves some residents without water; closes schools.” nwitimes, January, 31st, 2013.  http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lake-station/lake-station-water-main-break-leaves-some-residents-without-water/article_460fdbea-ee75-54da-9fbe-546bc0548e71.html

Wood, Andrew and Barbara J. Lence, “Assessment of water main break data for ASSET MANAGEMENT.” Journal (American Water Works Association) Vol. 98, No. 7 (July 2006), pp. 76-86