AWWA Study Examines Water Infrastructure Challenges

June 20, 2012
Estimates that investment needed over next 25 years will exceed $1.7 trillion

For more than 100 years, iron pipe has been the backbone of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in the U.S. and across the world. However, much of the 1 million miles of underground pipe in this country is nearing the end of its useful life. A recent study by the American Water Works Assn. (AWWA) looks at the impact of this aging and expanding infrastructure. The study, "Buried No Longer," details findings and challenges cities must address to ensure a continued safe, clean and economically viable water supply.

 “The study confirms what we have been saying for years: Significant investment is needed now to continue to have reliable water systems,” said Maury Gaston, marketing manager for AMERICAN, a Birmingham, Ala.-based manufacturer of ductile iron water and sewer pipe. “And, just as we would expect, the service and reliability of gray and ductile iron pipe fare very well in the AWWA study.”

The study estimates that the investment cost over the next 25 years to replace worn out pipe and to expand existing water systems to meet the country’s changing population needs will exceed $1.7 trillion. According to the study, delaying this investment could mean increased rates of pipe breakage, deterioration of water service, or utilities paying more in the long run to repair rather than replace broken pipe.

The challenge for utilities is finding a way to annually fund and sustain the replacement of aging systems. “To keep water bills affordable, utilities are going to have to make some tough choices between competing needs,” Gaston said. “But, one choice that should be a given is replacing and building our water systems with ductile iron pipe, not PVC or another pipe material.”

AMERICAN is one of several manufacturers supporting a national ad campaign advocating the use of ductile iron pipe over PVC. The campaign, “Iron for America,” was launched by the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Assn. (DIPRA) at AWWA’s annual meeting held June 10-14 in Dallas.

A short video on DIPRA’s website touts the advantages of ductile iron pipe, including that it is 10 times stronger than PVC, less expensive to run water through, and it is recyclable. The campaign also includes informational materials for industry professionals and the public.

“Although less visible than other infrastructure concerns, our water infrastructure is no less important,” Gaston said. “We often take for granted the public health protection, fire protection and quality of life that we enjoy as a result of reliable water systems; we turn on the tap and it is there. We must invest in the repair and expansion of this vital life source.”


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