Surviving the hard freeze: You can do this.


By Jennifer Douglass Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

With sustained freezing temperatures in our forecast, it’s time for a quick chemistry lesson.

Water expands when freezing, so any water left in pipes such as sprinkler systems can freeze, expand and — POW! — create a big, messy water leak.

With that in mind, College Station Water Services has some precautions to help customers protect water pipes and irrigation systems from freezing temperatures, prevent a muddy mess, and save a precious resource.

General Precautions

  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses from outside faucets. This allows water to drain from the pipe so an overnight freeze doesn’t damage the faucet or the pipe.
  • Insulate exposed outside pipes or faucets in unheated areas with Styrofoam cover, rags or paper.
  • Find your property’s master water shutoff valve and make sure everyone knows where it’s located. Usually, the valve is just past the water meter between the meter and your home.

Before the freeze hits

  • Shut-off and drain in-ground sprinkler systems, including the backflow prevention device on the irrigation system, then turn off the water to your sprinkler system.
  • Wrap or cover exposed PVC pipes and above-ground backflow preventers.
  • Be sure your irrigation controller is set to “OFF” and leave it in that position. This step alone will not protect your system against freeze damage, but if the controller isn’t turned off, it WILL run.
  • Pay particular attention to exposed backflow prevention devices. When these freeze they can cause significant leaks, often in the form of water geysers shooting several feet in the air.

During freezing weather

  • DO NOT RUN YOUR IRRIGATION SYSTEM DURING FREEZING WEATHER. If your sprinkler controller is not in the OFF position, IT WILL RUN. Does it seem like I’m shouting? GOOD, BECAUSE I AM.
  • Be cautious about unplugging your controller; some controllers will lose all programming and revert to default mode when plugged back in, which is watering EVERY day.
  • Irrigation runoff onto streets and sidewalks can freeze and pose a hazard to drivers and pedestrians. It’s also a violation of city ordinance – not just during freezing conditions, but any time.
  • Seriously, it’s January – if your irrigation system is still running in “Auto” mode, it needs to be turned off anyway!

Always report suspected water leaks to College Station Utilities 24-Hour Dispatch at 855-528-4278.

For more information, please contact me at 979.764.6223 or


About the Author
Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator for more than 15 years after serving two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She is also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. Originally from Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental & Resource Science from UC-Davis in 1995 and is currently pursuing a master’s in Water Management & Hydrologic Science from Texas A&M.


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