Media Alert: PWD Responds to High Rate of Cold Weather Customer Service Requests

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City-Philadelphia Water Department Logo

For immediate release: Date January 17, 2018
Contact: John DiGiulio, (267)-254-1930


Philadelphia Water Department Customer Service Expectations

Social media channels open to aid response amid ongoing cold weather emergencies. 

PHILADELPHIA-The Philadelphia Water Department would like to thank our customers for their patience during this extraordinarily busy time for us. We have crews working at an almost 24/7 pace right now, and we are attempting to address each issue brought to our attention as quickly as we can.

Beginning around Christmas day, the Philadelphia Water Department saw a significant increase in customer service calls, and the call volume and backlog has unfortunately continued to grow. For example, in January 2017, we had a total of 117 water main breaks for the month. In the first 15 days of January 2018, we have had 176 water main breaks. To date, the Department still has 170 leak investigations outstanding, and we are doing our best to get those assigned and inspected.

We also acknowledge that our call center is overwhelmed with calls coming into our system, with wait times averaging over 2 hours. To alleviate this wait time, PWD will – for the first time, and temporarily -- begin taking customer service requests via our social media accounts. We ask customers to follow us on Twitter or Facebook, and we will be actively monitoring these pages for direct messages between the hours of 9:00 am to midnight, 7 days a week until further notice. We can be found on Facebook at and on Twitter at This will allow customers seeking to report issues to avoid wait times at the call center.

Residents should also be aware that because of the tremendous number of leak reports, they may face wait times of 24 hours or more from the initiation of a complaint to the time an inspector arrives to do the initial inspection. Once a cause is determined, it could then be several days before we have a crew available to make repairs to a broken water main, shut off a pipe to a vacant property, or turn off customer service lines that may be broken as well.

For water main breaks, once a crew arrives on the block to begin making repairs, it takes approximately 8-10 hours to make those repairs for service to be restored to customers. At this time, we work locations where the water has been turned off first, followed by locations where we have allowed the water to run in order to maintain water service to the customers on that block. After we inspect each location, we determine if the water main break is causing any property damage, and if we find that to be the case, we turn the water main off to minimize the damage to personal property. If the main is not causing damage, we have allowed them to continue to run until we can get on site to make repairs.

For breaks on customer service lines at an occupied home or service lines and internal pipes at abandoned homes that are causing property damage to a neighboring home, we are inspecting these as quickly as we can as well. If we are able to turn off broken customers' service lines when we first inspect, we do so. However, if it needs to be dug up due to a curb box that is buried or broken, then these issues go into a queue, and customers could wait several days for these to be turned off.

We also remind homeowners that a broken service line is their responsibility to fix and get repaired, and they will be served a Notice of Defect to make the repairs. Customers should call licensed and registered plumbers if they know they have a broken service line to turn these off and make repairs. Broken pipes in vacant homes could also take several days for crews to be able to shut off the water.

By the numbers (all numbers provided are from 12/25/17-1/15/18):

  • 212 water main breaks repaired
  • 146 services shut off at vacant properties causing flooding
  • 335 Notices of Defect served on customer service lines
  • 440 leak investigations needed
  • 1,087 calls for leaks reported

For comparison, the same period one year earlier (12/25/16-1/15/17):

  • 101 water main breaks repaired
  • 34 services shut off at vacant properties causing flooding
  • 204 Notices of Defect served on customer service lines
  • 186 leak investigations needed
  • 438 calls for leaks reported

If customers have called PWD for a non-emergency service such as a meter appointment or assistance information and do not hear back from us within a few days, please try again as our call center has been focusing on emergency calls.

We continue to encourage customers to take the necessary steps to protect their own infrastructure from freezing or breaking during the remainder of the winter, and to refer to the tips provided to help unfreeze your pipes should it occur. This advice can be found on our website at

For more information, please visit our website at  



About the Philadelphia Water Department: The Philadelphia Water Department serves the Greater Philadelphia region by providing integrated water, wastewater, and stormwater services. The utility plans for, operates and maintains both the infrastructure and the organization necessary to purvey high-quality drinking water to provide an adequate and reliable water supply for all household, commercial, and community needs, and to sustain and enhance the region’s watersheds and quality of life by managing wastewater and stormwater effectively.