The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is the premier trade association representing the drinking water industry in the United States. Through its network of paid professionals and volunteers throughout the country, AWWA has provided the drinking water industry with standards for water system operations as well as valuable research on countless subjects for many decades.
Starting the Conversation
In February of 2012, AWWA released a research report entitled "Buried No Longer," developed by AWWA under the direction of its Water Utility Council. Funding for the project was provided by the Water Industry Technical Action fund (WITAF), which receives funding through member dues.
The purpose of the report was most notably in its title, “Buried No Longer." The report demonstrates that as a nation, we need to bring the conversation about water infrastructure above ground. Deferring needed investments today will only result in more significant expenses tomorrow and pass on a greater burden to our children and grandchildren.
As documented in the report, restoring existing water infrastructure as it reaches the end of useful life and expanding to serve a growing population will cost at least $1 Trillion over the next 25 years at the time of publication of the report.
Click the image above to download AWWA's Buried No Longer Full Report.
Click the play button below to view an interview with Jeff Otterstedt, McWane Ductile Senior Vice President, Pipe Division, conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Strategic Investment Decisions Must be Made
Because such a significant investment will be required to refurbish our nation's drinking water infrastructure in the next two to three decades, decisions on HOW these investments are made must be strategic. Materials selected to replace aging waterlines must be resilient, sustainable, operationally efficient, and environmentally friendly.
More than a decade ago, AWWA announced that a new era was dawning: the replacement era, which precipitated the Dawn report, which examined (20) water systems using a relatively new technique called a "Nessie Curve." The "Buried No Longer" report extended the earlier Dawn report beyond the original (20) cities to encompass the entire United States.
Recognizing one of the critical components noted earlier of pipeline sustainability and resilience, AWWA incorporated in its report data utilizing the "Nessie Model" charts, which shows the average estimated service lives by pipe material (average years of service).
This information is segregated by region of the country, size of pipeline, and types of pipeline materials considered. In viewing this objectively developed data on page 8 of the report, one notes that in every case, Ductile iron pipe exceeds the estimated service life of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) pipe, in some regions of the country as much as nearly double the estimated service life
Six Strategic Decision Findings
This research by AWWA incorporates six findings in its conclusion, all of which point toward the necessity to make strategic decisions for the future of our children and grandchildren to provide them with a sustainable drinking water system in this country for centuries to come:
- The Needs Are Large: Because of the very significant needs to replace infrastructure today, materials must be selected to put off for as long as possible these same expenditures once again, when faced by future generations.
- Household Water Bills Will Go Up: Selecting the proper application of pipeline materials today, which will last long into the future are the best investment for customers. Longer lasting assets will curtail household water bills going up continually over time because pipelines will provide many more years of use to customers in the future.
- There Are Important Regional Differences: These differences regarding estimated service life can be accommodated in pipeline material selection throughout the country, as noted in the "Buried No Longer" report.
- There Are Important Differences Based On System Size: Once again, these differences can be accommodated in accordance with the "Buried No Longer" report.
- The Costs Keep Coming: Because the costs KEEP COMING, material selection of pipeline infrastructure must be strategic to restrain escalating costs in the future, which can even further spiral out of control if assets must be replaced sooner rather than later due to shorter estimated service lives.
- Postponing Investment Only Makes The Problem Worse: The good news is that selecting a pipeline material with a longer asset life will allow the water utility to have confidence that replacement now will allow for over a century of estimated service life when using Ductile iron pipe in lieu of many other waterline pipeline materials.
The concluding paragraph of the "Buried No Longer" report states: "Finally, in many cases, difficult choices may need to be made between competing needs if water bills are to be kept affordable. Water utilities are willing to ask their customers to invest more, but this investment must be in things that bring the greatest actual benefit to the community. Only in that spirit can we achieve the goal to which we all aspire, the reliable provision of safe and affordable water to all Americans.”
Strategic Material Choices, Now and for the Future
Having managed water utility systems for several decades, I have seen firsthand the appreciation customers have for decision-makers of their drinking water utility that think strategically for their best interest. Customers become frustrated when they realize that system facilities were purchased and installed with a tactical viewpoint, recognizing they will have to pay once again for a short-lived asset.
This research report, "Buried No Longer," developed by our nation's leading trade representative for the drinking water industry, provides an objective road map to utilities when decisions are made regarding the material selection for their pipeline replacements as well as new infrastructure in the future.
Need Assistance with Your Waterworks Project?
If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact your local McWane Ductile Representative. We have team members who’ve managed small and large water utility systems, served in engineering consulting firms, and bring decades of experience in solving field issues involving pipeline construction and operation. From design to installation, we take great pride in providing education and assistance to water professionals throughout the water and wastewater industry.
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