Pipe corrosion is rampant all over the United States. According to a recent article in Trenchless Technology online, “more than 300,000 water main breaks occur throughout North America… mainly as a result of the continued use of iron piping in the nation’s water systems.”
And that’s not the end of it. Leaky, corroded pipes are also responsible “for the loss of 2.6 trillion gallons of drinking water every year.” A congressional study shows that corrosion “costs US drinking water and wastewater systems over $50.7 billion annually.” At this rate, the problem will result in more than $1 trillion in losses over the next two decades.
While corrosion is the main culprit, it doesn’t help that many municipal officials are co-opting for “a simple band-aid approach [that] repair[s] or replace[s] water mains with the same outdated iron pipes that currently make up much of [the] underground water systems.” Such an approach may take care of the problem short-term. But industry observers have noted that these practices are neither environmentally nor economically sustainable.
Technology may have the answer–or part of it. Other pipe-types–most notably those made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC)–exist that are not only 100% recyclable but also remarkably durable. According to the American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AWWARF), PVC pipe has an estimated lifespan of 110 years or more. A European report found that longevity could actually be as high as 170 years.
But for technology to make a difference, local governments will need to make sure that all types of pipe technologies get considered for projects which sometimes doesn’t happen. Looking for and using new technologies will “drive innovation, resulting in more efficient, cost-effective, environmentally sustainable water systems.”
In the meantime, companies like Formadrain that specialize in infrastructure rehabilitation continue to push the envelope on their own to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Traditional materials and methods may be best for some things, but when it comes to pipe repair and replacement high tech is only way to go.