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In 2014 a thirty-inch water main broke flooding the UCLA campus and nearby streets with about 20 million gallons.
In 2014 a thirty-inch water main broke flooding the UCLA campus and nearby streets with about 20 million gallons of drinking water. Photo Credit: Danny Moloshok/Reuters

 
In 2013 the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America a grade of D for our drinking water infrastructure. Much our water infrastructure is reaching the end of its serviceable life, with some pipe and mains that are more than 100 years old. There are more than one million miles of water mains in the US and the condition of many of these is unknown.

Impact

So, what does it mean to more than 264 million people that depend on our drinking water infrastructure? Large diameter pipe breaks can have serious impact on water delivery systems. That being said, water main breaks represent just a fraction of the total amount of water lost each day. Most water loss occurs undetected and underground, from smaller pipe. According to a Water Research Foundation survey, the average pipe break rate for water utilities is between 0.21 to 0.27 breaks per mile of pipeline every year.

Water pipe breaks can impact water delivery, damage personal property and other types of infrastructure. There are also potential health consequences from pipe breaks.

water infrastructure crisis.
Flooded street near the UCLA campus, from the 2014 break. Photo Credit: Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Costs

According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), assuming every existing pipe would need to be replaced, the costs in the coming decades could exceed $1 trillion. Expanding and repairing drinking and wastewater infrastructures could cost 2 trillion in the next 25 years according to the AWWA. The AWWA estimates that 250,000 water mains break each year. This estimate doesn’t include smaller system breaks. Approximately 2 trillion gallons of water are lost through leaks and breaks each year.  In a study conducted by the Utah State University Buried Structures Laboratory in 2012, costs to water utilities ranged from $6,000 to around $7.5 million with 52% of those costs related to insurance claims against utilities for property damage.

Funding Crisis

With less funding available, localities allocate less toward maintenance. Quoting ASCE “Congressional appropriations have declined over the five-year period 2008 to 2012, totaling only $6.9 billion—an average of $1.38 billion annually or $27.6 billion over 20 years, 8% of EPA’s identified needs over 20 years.”  The lack of funding and the increasing age of existing pipe will create a water infrastructure crisis if something isn’t done to strengthen our water systems.

Solutions

The EPA’s is working to make the nations water infrastructure more sustainable. One method is to extend the service life of our existing infrastructure through system rehabilitation. HJ3 can help mitigate the costs for replacement by extending existing pipe life through the use of carbon fiber technologies developed at HJ3 Composite Technologies. At HJ3, we have a track record of repairing and strengthening all kinds of pipe and extending its serviceable life at fraction of the cost to replace it, and Hj3’s patented carbon fiber technology is approved for potable water pipe.

If you have an underground pipe that needs repair and would like to learn more about HJ3’s CarbonSeal reinforcement systems, contact HJ3 at info@hj3.com.

Water System Innovations

There are some success stories of cities working to make water systems more efficient and eco friendly:
Prairie Waters Project in Aurora, Colorado: https://www.auroragov.org/LivingHere/Water/WaterSystem/PrairieWaters/index.htm
Riverbank Filtration Tunnel and Pump Station in Louisville, Kentucky:
http://www.louisvillewater.com/water-quality/riverbank-filtration

View their video on the system:

ASCE article on Chicago’s 10-year plan & Colorado’s Prairie Waters Project:
http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/a/#p/drinking-water/success-stories