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Planning for Water Distribution System Renewal

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Copyright 2019
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Understand the different types of water distribution failure, along with their health effects and the necessary responses.When water mains fail, severe consequences for critical facilities and drinking water can lead to public disappointment in water utilities. The recent Flint, Michigan drinking water episode involved failed water quality in the distribution system and multi-faceted utility responsibilities for managing their infrastructure systems. That failure, together with leaks and breaks, explains why distribution system failure is a high concern for most water utilities and the main cause of boil water orders and illnesses from drinking water. Despite these realities, a large gap remains between expenditures and needs for water main renewal. Part of the problem is customer willingness-to-pay or affordability, and part of the problem is lack of convincing business cases for pipe renewal. Many aging pipe segments are candidates for renewal with funding from capital improvement programs, and utilities require effective asset management systems based on assessment of failure risk. Analysis of USEPA and American Water Works Association data shows that the national replacement cost of water supply pipelines is about $1 trillion and rising. Meanwhile, average replacement rates for pipe are on cycles close to 200 years, which leads to increasing deferred maintenance and risk of failure.
You will learn recent research-based information about methods to address the problems of aging water distribution infrastructure. Failure types will be explained, along with their health effects and needed responses. The decision process for pipeline renewal will be explained, along with supporting technical issues including materials and trends, asset management systems, condition assessment, and cathodic protection. Political issues of renewal will be explained as background for preparation of business cases for capital investment and a suggested procedure for preparing a comprehensive pipe renewal program.


Professor Neil S. Grigg, Colorado State University

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