Open hydrants help city water system run efficiently, safely

West Biloxi residents who live near the Bay Vista water tower now being restored are noticing something that has been a recurring sight in some areas of the city since the months after Hurricane Katrina: open fire hydrants releasing water into city streets.

The city opens as many as two dozen of its 1,910 fire hydrants on a regular basis to help distribute chlorine throughout the city’s water system and regulate water pressure, and several hydrants are now open in west Biloxi, as the city continues a million-dollar project to sandblast and paint water towers at Bay Vista on Pass Road, the Margaret Sherry Library in north Biloxi and at Kuhn Street in east Biloxi.

“Opening these fire hydrants is something that we do to keep our system running efficiently and safely,” Public Works Director Richard Sullivan said. “We have a looped system, meaning that west Biloxi is connected to east Biloxi, but because we’ve had fewer customers in east Biloxi since the storm, we open fire hydrants to keep water circulating. Right now, in west Biloxi, we’re doing it because we’ve closed the Bay Vista water tank for maintenance, and we’re relieving pressure that has built up in the water mains.”

Sullivan said Public Works crews try to choose hydrants near storm drains to avoid causing flooding problems. The locations of open hydrants change regularly.

The goal is to maintain about 50 pounds of pressure in the system, which pumps enough water for domestic use and can be readily increased to meet the demands of firefighting. Too much pressure on a regular basis could compromise water mains, Sullivan said.

The city’s water supply is provided by nearly two dozen water wells throughout the city.
Additionally, five elevated storage tanks and two ground storage tanks, all holding a million gallons of water each, help maintain water pressure. In addition to work at three of the five elevated tanks, minor structural repairs also are being made at the ground-level tanks at Southern Avenue and Irish Hill Drive.

More on the city water system

How your water rates: To read the 2011 report on the quality of drinking water provided by the city, click here.

How you can save money: To see how you can reduce your monthly water bill and to learn how much a leak can cost you, click here.