National Report Underscores Critical Water Infrastructure Needs

Investing in ductile iron pipe is only rational option, some say

Congress left town on Friday without addressing the need to replace America's aging water infrastructure.  With more than $1 trillion in underground water infrastructure work required over the next 25 years, the United States confronts an historic financial and logistical challenge. These investments should be made wisely resulting in a sustainable, manageable infrastructure that avoids unanticipated, unwanted and unnecessary consequences—and additional costs. This effort involves using modern designs when installing water and wastewater pipelines and ductile iron pipe will be a major component.

A new report by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) puts the challenge in sharp perspective: If we delay this infrastructure work or fail to do it properly, the problem will only grow worse and become more expensive to fix.

"For all of those who care about reliable and safe drinking water, the report by AWWA is a must-read.  It is an eye opening account of the necessity of investing in water infrastructure today, while giving good indications of how those investments can best be made," said Gregg Horn, president of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Assn. "Delay and denial," Horn said, "are not responsible options." 

"As the results of the AWWA report indicate, based on their own experiences, utilities throughout the country know that properly-designed modern ductile iron pipe will serve in excess of 105 to 120 years," said Horn. "By contrast, those same utilities derived an expected service life for PVC pipe of as low as 55 years, with an average of just 70 years."

Horn raised another point: "One way to help ensure our nation gets it right for the long term is to use ductile iron pipe instead of weaker, less-proven PVC for our water infrastructure projects. The reason: ductile iron pipe is the strongest, most durable and reliable pipe material on the market. When life expectancies, added to the cost of materials, labor and maintenance are figured in, ductile iron is not only more cost-effective than the alternatives, it is also a far more environmentally responsible choice—ductile iron is a recycled and recyclable product that requires less pumping energy than alternatives (generating fewer greenhouse gases), while PVC production results in highly toxic dioxin and chlorine use, among other toxins and pollutants."

The 2010 investment estimate of $13 billion a year will increase to $30 billion annually by the 2040s. These investments must be sustained year after year, whether through long-term financing or a "pay-as-you-go" basis.  Failure to address the situation and to invest in water infrastructure renewal will only complicate the challenge and its eventual solution. Aging water pipes may leak, break or fail and thereby compromise businesses, communities and public health.

"Right now," Horn said, "infrastructure decisions worth tens of billions of dollars are being made at the local, state and federal levels to address our water challenges. We cannot afford to make the wrong choices. Uncounted miles of pipe are in need of replacement and we must invest in additional piping to meet our growing demands. Using the right materials—getting this work done right—is a vital matter to us all."


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