Water Utility FAQs

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What is done to assure the water is safe to drink?
Janesville regularly tests the quality of its water supply. Janesville's water continues to exceed all federal and state water-quality standards. Substances tested for include bacteria (at least 70 tests per month), chlorine and fluoride (daily tests), nitrates (quarterly tests), and a variety of more exotic substances such as pesticides and other elements (annual tests). The law requires the Utility to notify its customers of any water quality problems. See the Water Quality Report for more information.

Does Janesville have high nitrates in the water supply?
At this time, the water supply meets all state and federal regulations regarding nitrate.
In 1992, 2004, and 2005, pumping stations were built to address nitrates. The pumping stations contain a deep well and mixing reservoir. The higher nitrate water and the water from the deep well are blended in the reservoir to lower the nitrate levels.

Does Janesville have hard water?
Yes. A characteristic of the Janesville water supply is its hardness. We call it hard because washing with it creates fewer suds. Our water supply simply contains higher levels of harmless, naturally-occurring elements. This does, however, contribute to its good taste. The average hardness is 350 milligrams per liter of calcium (or 20 grains per gallon).

What chemicals are added to the water supply?
The Water Utility treats water at each pumping station, adding chlorine to 0.2 parts per million and fluoride to 1.1 parts per million. The chlorine is added as a disinfectant to kill germs and guard against any contamination that a main break could cause. Janesville started fluoridation in 1949 as a means to protect against dental decay.

What if my water has a rotten egg odor?
If the cold, treated water inside doesn't smell, turn on the hot water and let it run a few minutes -- does it smell? If it does, chances are you have a sacrificial anode inside your hot water heater that is "coming apart at the seams" and throwing off a "rotten egg" odor. This obnoxious smell will drive you right out of your shower! The only solution is to remove the anode from the heater, voiding your warranty, or replace it with a new one made with aluminum alloy. This anode is placed in a glass lined hot water heater to seal up any cracks in the glass lining and prevent corrosion of the heater tank. You will find the anode on the top of the heater. Remove the tin cover and insulation, and look for what seems to be a pipe plug -- about 3/4 inch in size with a 1 1/16"fitting. Turn off the heat source and the water, have someone hold the tank to prevent it from turning and unscrew the "plug". You will find that the "plug" has a 30" – 40" long pipe (or what's left of one) attached to it. Hopefully, most of the rod is still attached but just corroded. If so, replace the plug with a real pipe plug and throw the anode away. If part of the rod has corroded off and fallen into the heater, you may have to try to fish it out. Either way, before you plug the hole, pour about 2 pints of chlorine bleach into the heater first. This will kill the smell left in the heater. If, after a week or so, the smell returns, you must fish out the rod that is in the bottom of the tank.

What if I notice a strange film on my coffee?
The residue on the surface of your coffee is probably either a soap film or an oil slick.
A soap film can be caused by magnesium and calcium carboxylates. These come from the reaction of certain types of soap to our hard water. If not properly rinsed from a coffee maker or cup, these deposits could build up causing a film to form on top of the coffee. Keeping your coffee maker and dishes clean and well rinsed should minimize this type of residue.

An oil slick floating on the top of your coffee comes from the coffee itself. All coffees contain oils that are insoluble in water and form a slick on top of the coffee. These oils are extracted from the grounds in a variety of ways:

  • Over-extraction of the grounds. If the coffee takes longer than five or six minutes to brew, the extended contact with the hot water will extract more oil. Brewing with soft water and using too few grounds can extend brewing beyond the recommended time.
  • Excessive heating. The longer the coffee is heated the more oil that is extracted from it. If coffee is left to warm on a burner for a long period of time, more oil will be extracted.
  • Improperly cleaned brewing equipment. Here again, it is important to keep your coffee-making equipment clean. Improperly cleaned coffee makers allow the oil to accumulate in the coffee maker and eventually come out in the coffee. The oils and tars in the coffee will be more likely to adhere to a coffee maker lined with a lime build-up.

Why would water appear cloudy in a glass and then clear up?
Dissolved air in the water can cause cloudiness that will disappear in a few minutes. Air can be dissolved in the water a variety of ways. Air can enter a water main during a repair and become dissolved in the water. When cold water from the water main enters a warm building, air escapes from the water and can make the water look cloudy or milky. The cloudiness usually occurs more often in winter than in summer because cold water can hold more dissolved air than warm water. Air can also be dissolved in the water from a faucet aerator causing the water to appear cloudy.

I received a tag on my door from the Water Utility indicating that they had to “remove meter for testing.” Is something wrong with my meter; and if so, how does the Utility know?
Water Utilities in Wisconsin are required by the Public Service Commission to test water meters for accuracy on a regular basis. In Janesville, residential meters (1” and smaller) must be replaced every 20 years. The meter readers will determine which meters must be replaced prior to reading in any particular neighborhood. They then tag the doors where these older meters are located as they are collecting reads for that route. The resident must then make an appointment with the Water Utility’s Service Department to remove the meter for testing. It is the Utility’s goal to provide convenient times for City residents by offering evening appointments Monday – Thursday, the latest being 5:15 p.m. The Service Technician will remove the existing and replace it with a different meter that will stay in the residence. The removed meters are tested at the Utility shop and retired as needed. If you receive a card that indicates “Repair water meter/remote/ERT,” your quarterly meter reading may reveal a significant change in your average usage (either higher or lower). The Utility Billing Office will issue a request to have the service checked. Either the meter or remote may have stopped altogether requiring replacement or the remote may simply need resetting. The Utility is also upgrading its meter-reading technology by replacing the mechanical remotes with Electronic Reading Transmitters (ERTs). This is currently being done on an as-needed basis.

Where does the water come from?
Contrary to belief, we do not use surface water from the Rock River. The Janesville Water Utility draws water from seven wells, which have a total capacity of up to 29 million gallons per day. Four of these wells supply water from the sand and gravel deposits of the preglacial Rock River Valley, which are more than 100 feet below the surface. The other three wells are deep wells (about 1150 feet) that extract water from the deep sandstone aquifer. These wells are found throughout Janesville. The Utility also treats the water, and stores and delivers the finished product (drinking water) to your tap through an underground system of pressurized pipes. Total annual water consumption is about 3.6 billion gallons.

Which well do I get my water from?
No individual customer gets their water from a specific well. Wells supply water at various points in the distribution system. How the water gets to a specific property depends on which wells are actually operating, not how close you are to a specific well.

How does the water get to my house?
The Water Utility maintains a distribution system of over 367 miles of water main pipes. Annually, the utility crew fixes about 90 water main breaks (caused primarily from our cold Wisconsin winters), repairs about 125 service leaks, and operates half of the 2,964 system valves. They also flush each of the 2,561 fire hydrants every year. This is one of the few activities you may see in your neighborhood since so much of the water utility is underground. The hydrants are flushed to assure they will be operational in case of a fire and to flush any settlement that has occurred in the water lines.

Why would the Water Utility contact me?
The Utility may contact a customer for several reasons, but the most common reason involves the water meter. The Utility is required by State regulations to test meters and may contact you to remove the water meter for routine testing. We do not charge the customer for meter service or remote installation.

Whom do I call if I have a water-related question?
For service and maintenance, call 755-3115 between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday – Friday.

For questions about water and wastewater bills, call the billing department at 755-3090 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday. The Billing Department is located in the Clerk’s Office in City Hall.

The Water Utility provides emergency maintenance service to reduce inconveniences caused by water main breaks, water service leaks, sewer backups, or other emergencies. If these problems occur during non-working hours (after 4:00 p.m. Monday – Friday or on weekends and holidays), residents may reach the emergency maintenance crews by calling 755-6375.

What do I do if I have a leak in a pipe, valve or faucet?
The cost of a household plumbing leak or dripping faucet adds up quickly in water loss and on your water bill. The Water Utility will repair a leaky water meter because the meter is City property. Any pipes, valves or faucets are private property and the property owner’s responsibility to repair. The EPA and Wisconsin DNR websites have information including videos and tutorials to assist with leak repair. Please visit the EPA at http://www.epa.gov/watersense/our_water/fix_a_leak.html or the WDNR at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/WaterUse/FixALeak.html.

I’m hooked up to City water. May I keep my private well?
State law and local ordinance require that unused, unsafe, or non-complying private wells on properties served by the municipal water supply be properly filled and abandoned. Wells that are compliant with state and local codes may remain in use provided the well is issued a restricted use permit by the Water Utility. A private well may be permitted for use as long as it is found to be free of bacteriological contamination and in compliance with the well construction code. This requirement must be met for both potable and non-potable well uses since both types are capable of contaminating municipal supplies. Please contact the Water Utility if you have a private well.

I just got a new water softener. What are the grains per gallon in the water so I can set the softener?
The hardness is about 20 grains per gallon (or 350 milligrams per liter).

Can I be hooked up to public water?
The answer depends on many variables including the property's location and whether it is in city limits, street planning, timing, and other issues. Sewer and water service will involve a special assessment to the property served in proportion to the public street frontage in all cases. Contacting the Engineering Division at 755-3160 to discuss the specific circumstances of your location is recommended.

How are utilities for new construction handled?
Sewer and water mains can be extended to serve new developments following the approval of the City Council. This typically occurs twice a year during annual Spring and Fall Public Works Programs. Written requests must be made to the Engineering Division for such service. Developers and owners of multiple lots must make such requests before January 1 to have these improvements constructed under the City’s Spring program, or by June 1 for construction under the Fall program. We will assign requests from individual owners to the next available program. The City Council holds a public hearing on all such proposed improvements. If the Council approves them, special assessments are levied against the abutting property owners for the cost of these improvements. Additional information is available and other requirements may apply. Contact the City Engineering Division at (608) 755-3160.

Why does the Water Utility flush hydrants in the City?
The Water Utility flushes all 2,561 public fire hydrants in the City of Janesville every year. This is done to ensure that: 1) the water in the mains does not become stagnant, 2) the hydrants operate properly for fire protection, and 3) the hydrants are properly drained to protect them from damage during winter freezes. The Utility typically flushes the hydrants on weekdays in late October and early November between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. This process takes about two to three weeks to complete. The Utility will also flush hydrants as needed to remove any air pockets that may develop due to maintenance of the valves and mains.

Can you arrange tours of the pumping stations?
Yes. Simply call the Water Utility at 755-3115 to arrange tours for your interested group or organization.