Flushing FAQs 

Why are water mains flushed?

The water mains are flushed to remove sediment and deposits from the pipes, which helps to maintain water clarity in the water distribution system.  In addition to cleaning sediment from the water mains, the flushing program gives OCWA personnel an opportunity to operate and exercise valves and fire hydrants.  If any problems are found during the flushing activities they are addressed to ensure that hydrants and valves are in good working order during an emergency.

In addition, water mains in your area may need to be flushed due to emergencies, water main breaks and repairs, or water quality issues.  Flushing related to these unforeseen circumstances are not part of the work overseen by OCWA’s Flushing Program Crew.

How are water mains flushed?

The flushing of water mains includes the systematic closing of various valves and opening of fire hydrants.  This causes rapid flow of water through the mains that carries out the sediment and deposits.  We begin the process at the water tanks and transmission mains and work street by street, closing and opening valves to direct the flow of water.

When are uni-directional flushing conducted? 

Days: Monday – Friday
Hours:  7:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Program Duration:  Spring-Fall

How many days will my water be affected by flushing activities?

The water mains on your street will typically only be flushed once.  However, while working in your neighborhood you may experience lower pressure at your premises during the flushing activities.

How long does it take to flush my street?

It typically takes 30 to 60 minutes to flush the water mains on residential streets.

Will I still have water during the flushing activities?

In most cases you will still have water during the flushing of your street or neighborhood, however you may temporarily experience lower water pressure.  We recommend you refrain from using the water while we are flushing your street or area to avoid drawing sediment and discolored water into your plumbing. We also recommend that you avoid using your hot water; turn off automatic dishwashers, laundry machines, and lawn sprinkler systems, etc.   You may also want to turn off or bypass any water filtration or softening systems as well.

What should I do if I experience discolored water?

Avoid using the hot water in your home to avoid pulling sediment, deposits and discolored water into your water heater.   After flushing activities have been completed in your area we recommend running the COLD water tap from a faucet located as close to the meter as possible (i.e., in the basement).   Your water should clear in 10 to 15 minutes.  If discolored water persists, please contact OCWA’s Operations Department at 315-455-7061 ext. 3106.

In addition, if you experience a “rusty” color staining to laundry after flushing activities have been completed please contact OCWA.  We have Red-B-Gone, which removes rust and iron stains from white clothes, available for these customers.

What should I do or expect during and after flushing:

  • Try to avoid using the water each night during the time your street is scheduled for flushing activities.
    • If you use water while we are flushing the water lines it is possible that some of the rusty colored water that collects in the supply lines could enter your household pipes and water treatment systems.
    • If you need to use the water (e.g., toilet, sink) during the nighttime flushing activities use only the cold water to avoid pulling discolored water into your hot water tank.
    • In preparation for flushing on your street, turn off any automatic water systems, such as time-delayed dishwashers, ice makers, timed lawn sprinklers, or water treatment systems.
    • After 6 am on the morning the flushing of the water mains has been completed, we recommend that you open a cold-water faucet closest to the point where the water enters your home or building. Allow the cold water to run for a few minutes until it runs clear.  Once the cold water is running clear, you can return your water treatment and/or other automatic systems back into service.
    • Since the whole system is being flushed, this would be an excellent opportunity for you to do some water maintenance in your homes and businesses. We recommend that you use this opportunity to flush your water heaters, clean the water reservoirs on your toilet fixtures, and also to flush fresh water through any seldom used water lines in your home or building.

How can I find out when the mains in my area will be flushed?

The water main flushing plan changes on a day to day basis due to unforeseen conditions the flushing crew encountered in the field (e.g., road construction, broken valves, inclement weather, etc.) and to water related emergencies.  Based on the continuously changing field conditions, it is extremely difficult to determine exactly which streets or areas will be flushed more than a couple days prior.  However, OCWA gives inquiring customers as much information regarding the flushing schedule as available at the time of the inquiry.

If you have water quality questions please contact our Water Quality Manager at 315-455-7061 ext. 3157 between 8 am and 4 pm Monday through Friday.

Can I do laundry?

To avoid potential staining of laundry, we recommend you do not do laundry during the flushing activities in your area.  Once flushing has been completed on your street we recommend the following:

  • First, run a cold-water facet in the basements or lowest level, closest to where the water service enters the building. Run the water until the water runs clear.
  • Second, we recommended that you refrain from using your washing machine for 24 hours after the flushing for your street is complete. If you notice discoloring of the water flush a cold-water faucet further away from where the water comes into the building to draw out any remaining discolored water that was drawn into the building.
  • Third, you may also want to consider running a cold-water cycle on your washing machine. This load should be empty or with a white cotton rag before running any normal or light-colored loads of laundry.

What to do if I did laundry and it is “rusty” now???

If you experience a “rusty” color staining to laundry after flushing is complete, please contact OCWA.  We have RED-B-Gone, which removes rust and iron stains from white clothes, available to you.

There was emergency water maintenance work done in my area: What should I do afterwards?

What to do after water is out due to maintenance work or a water main break. You may experience some cloudy, discolored or spurting water. If you experience this, please run a cold water tap for 15-30 minutes to clear the issue. If this persists, call OCWA Customer Service at 315-455-7061 or after business hours at 315-475-7601.

Discolored or rusty water: What should I do?

Customers experiencing dirty, discolored or rusty water should run one cold water faucet for 10 to 15 minutes until the discolored water clears. *By not running the hot water initially, you’ll keep discolored water out of the hot water tank. We recommend you remove any screens, filters, or aerators on the faucet you are flushing before flushing. If you are unable to remove the screen, filter, or aerator you may try to flush the cold water tap in a bathtub. If the water does not start to clear after 10 to 15 minutes, please call OCWA Customer Service 315-455-7061 or after business hours at 315-475-7601, to report the discolored water. The water is safe to use, however, customers should refrain from doing laundry or drinking water that is discolored.

Cloudy or milky water: What should I do?

Milky colored water is often caused by air in the water. Confirm this by filling a glass with water from the tap and checking for bubbles rising to the top. If you allow water in the glass to stand for a few minutes, the air should completely dissipate. To remove air from the line, run a cold water faucet at the highest location in the house for about 15 minutes. If the problem persists, call Customer Service 315-455-7061 or after business hours at 315-475-7601.

White particles in my water: What should I know?

Sometimes the plastic filler tube on certain water heaters breaks down into granules that look like powdered soap. It’s most likely to happen with water heaters manufactured between 1993 and 1996. According to the manufacturers, the problem has been solved. Affordable, easy-to-install replacements are available.

Why is my water running slowly?

If the problem is only with one faucet, it may be a plugged faucet filter screen or aerator. Clean or replace the screen or aerator.

If more than one faucet has low pressure, check the following: 

Shut-off Valve: Make sure the valve is open all the way.

Supply Line: If other houses in your area are experiencing the same problem, call Customer Service at 315-455-7061.

Pressure Regulator or Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV): Your plumber can test, adjust, and/or replace the valve as needed.