Residents who notice Tampa Water Department crews working at fire hydrants and see water running into the street may think that the City is not practicing its own advice about conserving water. The process of periodically "flushing" fire hydrants, however, is part of a required maintenance program to maintain the integrity of the water system and to continue to deliver the highest quality water possible to our customers.
Flushing the water system on a regular basis removes sediment from lines and keeps the entire distribution system refreshed. The Tampa Water Department maintains miles of water lines throughout its service area, which includes most of the City of Tampa and parts of unincorporated Hillsborough County. Flushing activity for water quality purposes is minimized through the City's ongoing practice of using hydrants on a rotating basis to fill City water trucks used for street cleaning, utility maintenance, dust suppression activities and other activities by various departments throughout the City.
Every fire hydrant is flushed annually for preventative maintenance to ensure proper operation and available flow. Annual hydrant testing involves opening the hydrant enough to ensure there are no restrictions in the hydrant or piping, so that it is ready to use, if needed. Flushing for maintenance usually lasts only minutes. Hydrants also are tested when first installed and for insurance and design purposes.
When maintenance is performed residents in the immediate vicinity of the work may experience temporary discoloration of their water. This discoloration primarily consists of harmless silt and precipitates and does not affect the safety of the water. If you experience discoloration in your water after crews have been flushing in your neighborhood, clear the pipes in your own home by running all water faucets, starting with faucets outside first, for a minute or two.
This same philosophy of water line preventive maintenance is one that can benefit your home or business. Your water heater should be drained and flushed at least once a year to keep it working efficiently and to protect the quality of water inside your home. Also, if you go out of town and there is no water use in your home for a week or more, when you return it's a good idea to run all your faucets for a minute or so before using the water. This ensures that you do not use any stagnant water that may have developed in your home's pipes while you were away.
Questions about water line flushing can be directed to Customer Service Representatives by calling (813) 274-8811 or online through the City's Message Center.