Collection & Distribution

The Water and Sewer Maintenance Division employs more than 100 full time employees dedicated to providing routine and emergency maintenance to the city's water distribution and wastewater collection systems. Typical tasks include the inspection, cleaning and repairing of water and sewer main trunk lines. The division also installs and repairs water and sewer service connections and operates and maintains fire hydrants and water valves. 


The distribution system delivers treated water from the water treatment facilities via 1,200 miles of water lines to approximately 80,000 connections in Durham. These homes, businesses and institutional customers rely on staff to maintain both the quality of the water and the integrity of the lines/pipes and connections. Flushing is one mechanism used to move water quickly through the lines for a number of reasons.

In areas where there are dead-end pipes or areas of low water use, small particles may settle on the bottom of the pipes. Over time, these deposits can be a source of color, odor and taste problems and may also become stirred up due to a water line break. To minimize these issues, when crews respond to a water line break and complete the repairs, hydrants in the area are left flowing for 24 to 48 hours (usually) to clear the water flowing into customers’ taps.

Periodically, staff conducts planned flushing to address these issues. See the Flushing FAQs (PDF) to learn more about this practice.

Two workers in hardhats walking in a field, looking for water meters.


The Meter Maintenance work group conducts meter reading and provides routine and emergency response to water meter problems, including leaks, unusual consumption rates and water pressure concerns. One major undertaking of the Meter Maintenance work group is oversight of the Automated Meter Reading (AMR) project. The benefits of an automated meter reading system include convenience for both the city and the customer. With AMR, the meter readers can collect meter readings much quicker and more safely by simply driving by meter locations.

The electronic meters will assist customers in detecting leaks and will assist utility staff in detecting malfunctioning or tampered meters. Additionally, this timely information, coupled with analysis, can help both utility staff and customers better manage the city’s potable water usage.


The City's wastewater is collected in approximately 1,100 miles of sewer lines and delivered to wastewater treatment facilities. It's treated and then discharged into the environment. One important Water and Sewer Maintenance Division mission is the state-mandated cleaning program. The City is required to clean at least 10% of its sewer lines each year. This keeps the system in shape and reduces the risk of overflows.

Cleaning prevents major blockages caused by foreign objects, solidified calcite, root growth, fats, oils and grease (FOG) and various other forms of debris. Many municipalities, including the City of Durham, use high-pressure water pumps and hoses combined with various flushing head attachments to clean debris. This allows technicians to "pressure wash" the walls as the hose is pulled through the pipe. The water pulls the suspended debris back to the manhole where it can be vacuumed or removed by hand.


Because this process can cause the household toilet to splash water onto the surrounding walls and floor in the bathroom, customers are encouraged to close all toilet lids routinely. A further action would be to cover the toilet bowl with an old towel and then place the toilet seat and lid down to hold the towel in place. City staff uses notification procedures for routine system cleaning so that customers can prepare for and potentially minimize issues caused by the high pressure flushing process. Customers may call Water and Sewer Maintenance at 919-560-4344 for further information and updates.

For information about the collection system and cleaning activities, view the Annual Sewer System Report and information on Sewer Spills and Overflows.