Federal Water Infrastructure Spending: A Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity

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“Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.”

This old adage is sadly true in too many communities across the United States that don’t have access to enough safe, clean drinking water.

But in a positive development to address this challenge, there has recently been a huge push to invest in water infrastructure with new federal resources as a result of COVID relief and federal infrastructure legislation. The U.S. EPA is developing new programs and, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, making significant investments in state revolving funds to improve water supply systems, especially water systems. rural.

With billions of dollars spent on water systems, there is a great responsibility for elected officials, utility operators, and others responsible for making pipe decisions to select the best pipe for their communities. The Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association has long advocated listening to engineers and experts in the field. In fact, our association is proud to have engineers on staff who work with utilities and others to ensure they understand the application and specifications of Ductile Iron Pipe. Our engineers also work with researchers at colleges, universities and elsewhere on projects that may affect buried water and sewer lines and our understanding of how they can meet the challenges they face for decades. (or more).

Ductile iron pipe is the strongest and toughest pipe currently available for transporting potable water. It is the descendant of cast iron, which has been used for over 100 years and in some communities for over 150 years. DIPRA celebrates the strength and longevity of iron pipes with the Century Club, which recognizes more than 580 municipalities and utilities in the United States and Canada that have used iron pipe for more than 100 years, and the Sesquicentennial Club, which recognizes more than 30 municipalities and utilities in the same two countries with iron pipes more than 150 years old.

Technology and innovations from American ductile iron manufacturers have resulted in pipes that can withstand seasonal weather pressures, whether freezing or roasting temperatures, as well as natural events such as wildfires. , which are becoming increasingly strong and severe as we progress with climate change.

Other, sometimes less important, piping materials frequently rupture under pressure or melt during forest fires, which can lead to drinking water supplies contaminated with volatile chemicals. Sometimes the temptation to pay less for expensive infrastructure projects with lesser quality materials is tempting. But beware the buyer. Lower quality pipes and those made of lower quality materials will break more easily and will not have Ductile’s life cycle expectations, potentially resulting in repairs and replacements which could be more expensive than the initial installation of the pipe.

When comparisons between ductile iron and other pipe types are made fairly, including lifetime costs, ductile iron is by far the clear winner. Our pipes have a lifespan of over 100 years, while other materials only last 50-60 years. We build pipes to last for generations to deliver clean, safe drinking water to your grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Look at what others have recently said about ductile iron pipes being installed in water systems.

The New York City Department of Design and Construction is installing ductile iron pipe in the Westerleigh neighborhood because it is “more resistant to breakage. The Suffolk County Water Authority in New York state is installing ductile iron pipe in Bridgehampton, noting that it is “much more resistant to breaking and expected to last over 100 years. Connecticut Water is replacing cast iron pipes with ductile iron with the distribution system’s engineering system manager commenting, “It’s the latest technology.” Likewise, communities and utilities across the West Coast, Los Angeles Water at Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, have included ductile iron in their seismic planning due to its superior resilience to natural disasters; that’s why East Bay MUD in Oakland, Calif., describes the ductile iron pipes they install as the “next generation of pipes” that the utility says “should last 150 years.”

The amount of federal resources devoted to water supply infrastructure is truly a unique opportunity to create the kind of water supply systems our communities deserve. No one should ever wonder if their water can be drunk, bathed or used for cooking. The first step in designing these systems that will last for generations is to use the best pipes, the ones that will last the longest, be the strongest and strongest and guarantee clean and safe drinking water. The only pipes that can stand up to this claim are ductile iron.

• Patrick J. Hogan is president of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA). Since its inception over 100 years ago, DIPRA has provided accurate, reliable and essential technical information on cast iron and now ductile iron pipe to a wide variety of utilities and consulting engineers.

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