Torn-up yards and roads. Unexpected loss of water from the tap. Standing pools of water.
These are signs of an aging water distribution system when water mains break and crews need to shut off service to customers, dig up pipes to make emergency repairs and older pipes leak above ground.
"We want to cut down the number of water main breaks," said Columbia water distribution Superintendent Otis Shields. "Our staff size isn't growing. ... The less breaks, the more time you have to be in more of a preventative, proactive stance of handling things as opposed to a reactive stance. Some of these lines are serving fine now, but we want to improve the system."