Service Lines

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What is a service line?

Your service line is the pipe that connects your household plumbing to the water main in the street and delivers the water from the City water main to your home. The material of your water service line can vary. Some homes built before 1986 still have lead service lines. 


Who owns my service line?

Who owns service lines vary from city to city.  In Ames, the homeowner is responsible for the entire service line and any replacement or repair costs.   


How much would replacing my service line cost?

The actual cost of service line replacement depends on a number of factors including: the length of the service line, where the line is located, and the technique used to install the new service line.   

There are a number of variables that can also affect the cost of replacement, including the locations of plumbing, trees, driveways, and walls.  In a 2005 survey by the American Water Works Association, the range in cost to replace an entire service line ranged from $450 to $10,000.  The median price to replace a service line is $3,000 to $6,000.  For a more accurate, customized, and current estimate; homeowners should contact a licensed plumber.  Also, remember to always get a t least three price quotes.*

*Please note, when replacing lead service lines, it is extremely important to replace the entire line to be sure to help remove concerns about lead from your plumbing.  Doing a partial lead service line replacement can be worse than doing nothing. 

If you are considering replacing your service line, it is recommended to contact the City's Public Works Department, Utility Maintenance Division beforehand.  If the water main your service line is attached to is being replaced, the City will also replace any lead service lines that are attached to the water main, at no cost to the homeowner. 


How much water is needed to be flushed after a service line replacement?

Once an entire lead service line and/or fixtures are replaced, some lead particles may still be present in your home’s water for up to three months due to the disruption from the changes.  For this reason, homeowners and contractors should flush internal plumbing to reduce any lead-containing particles or sediments from entering the home immediately following any work on lead service lines.

1. After the initial flushing (after a service line replacement), homeowners or plumbers should follow these steps
2. Remove all faucet aerators from all the cold water taps in the home.
3. Beginning in the lowest level of the home, fully open the cold water taps throughout the home.
4. Let the water run for at least 30 minutes at the last tap opened (on the top floor).
5. Turn off each tap, starting with the taps in the highest level of the home.  Be sure to run water in baths and showers. 

Homeowners should continue to flush any stagnant water for several months following the line replacement, as well as have their water tested.


Service Line Protection Plans

The Ames Water Plant receives a number of inquiries through out the year from residents who have received a mailing regarding their private water and sewer service lines. We want to make sure our customers understand that these mailings come from a private firm not affiliated in any way with the City of Ames, and the City neither endorses nor discourages the use of any particular provider of service line protection plans.

Here are some things to keep in mind when considering the need for a service line protection plan:

  • In Ames, property owners actually own their water and sewer service lines from the building all the way to the main in the street; and are also responsible for repairing any breaks. This is the practice in nearly all Iowa communities.
  • There is no "right" or "wrong" answer on whether a service protection plan makes sense for you. Think about your personal tolerance for risk, and consider whether the cost of the coverage is worth it to you.
  • Whether selecting a plumber, an accountant, or a service line protection provider, it is always worthwhile to research the firm to ensure that you are comfortable with their business approach. You may even want to get quotes from more than one company to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.
  • You may also want to check with your property insurance provider to see if you already have coverage for service lines. Most policies do not include this as a standard type of coverage, but some might.

A graphic showing a house, the water meter, the water service line, the water main, and the property line, and identifying where the homeowner's responsibility starts.