Water Service Pipe vs. Water Main: What’s the Difference?

June 16, 2020

It is normal to confuse the terms water service pipe and water main as they sound similar. In some cases, they are confused when referencing a broken water main or water main repair in NYC.

The Difference:

The water service pipe includes the piping that carries water from the city water main which is usually located in the street to the inside of the house where the pipe connects to the meter.

In rare cases, the city water main may be located under the sidewalk, but the same rules still apply under this definition.

The most confusing part is when referring to the water main as most property owners and even licensed plumbers refer to the buildings water service pipe as the water main. The water main is actually the pipes that are installed and maintained by the city or town you live in. These pipes include all of the piping used to deliver water to your water service pipe.

People also tend to be confused about the term “water distribution pipe”, which includes the piping on the premises from the water meter to the points that the water is being utilized like your shower, sink, toilets or any other plumbing fixture located on your premises. A good rule of thumb is that the piping inside of your home where the water service pipe left off at your meter, any pipe on the house side of your meter.

Who is responsible for repairs?

If the water service pipe is leaking—regardless of the location—the property owner is responsible for hiring a licensed plumber to resolve the water main repair NYC. It is common for a property owner to assume that if the pipe is leaking under the sidewalk or in the roadway then the city will take care of the leak. In NYC the property owner is responsible for maintaining the entire water service pipe, even if your pipe runs under 7AV in Manhattan and the leak is 100’ away from your building. In this case the property owner is still responsible for repairing the leaking pipe.

When is the city responsible?

The city is only responsible for maintaining the water main and under no circumstance are they responsible for performing any repair to the water service pipe.

Even if the valve that connects the homeowners pipe to the city pipe is leaking the property owner is still responsible for hiring the licensed plumber as well as all cost associated with the new valve (AKA tap connection).

In a case like this, the city is responsible for extracting the faulty tap and drilling in the new tap but the licensed plumber must do all of the excavating, prepare the city main, and backfill upon completion.

It is important to consult with a licensed master plumber if there is any confusion on responsibly, source of the leak, or the process for fixing the leak.

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