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Why updating our aging water infrastructure is essential?

Why updating our aging water infrastructure is essential?

As buried water pipeline assets age, their failure rates increase and they incur higher cost consequences. In Australia, asbestos cement pipes are among the oldest assets in many networks and, consequently, they exhibit the highest failure rates.[1] Australia’s wide network of cast and ductile iron pipes are also a major concern for high failure rates and burst water mains.

Aging water infrastructure is a common problem in industrialised countries as many major water pipeline systems have been in service since at least mid-last century if not longer. Australia is no different.

Gregory M. Baird, Former President of Aging Water Infrastructure, undertook a review of the major concern for aging water pipelines and the times ahead for water utilities and councils.

“As pipes laid post World War II start reaching their average useful life of 75 years and cast iron pipes from even earlier start to fail at an increased rate, water utilities will face significant needs for pipe replacement over the next few decades. Replacement of pipes installed to the 1950’s is upon us, and replacement of pipes installed in the latter half of the twentieth century will dominate the remainder of the next one.” [2]

For water supply pipeline projects and replacement pipeline projects, PVC pipes need to be considered for their range of advantages in terms of performance and cost effectiveness over alternative pipe materials.

PVC pipes have a proven track record of excellent long-term performance and offer extended, trouble free service life.

Cast iron pipes installed over 75 years ago are seeing high levels of failure due to corrosion that unfortunately a common feature of these types of pipes. Unlike other pipe materials, PVC pipes are corrosion proof while also being easy to handle, transport and install.

PVC pipes save water and sewer utilities substantial amounts by reducing water loss and ingress into sewer systems. Gasket joints provided with PVC pipes are manufactured and tested to perform without any leakage. The zero-leakage PVC joints enable sewer utilities to dramatically reduce wet weather inflows and avoid unnecessary treatment costs.

Studies from both Australia and overseas have consistently shown that PVC pipes have the lowest failure rates of all pipe types. Similarly, water utilities have reported much lower unaccounted for water losses where systems comprised of PVC pipes.


[1] DAVIS, P., De Silva, D., Marlow, D., Moglia, M., Gould, S. and Burn, S., (2008) Failure prediction and optimal scheduling of replacements in asbestos cement water pipe, Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology – AQUA 57.4

[2] BAIRD, Gregory, M., The Silver Bullet for Aging Water Distribution Systems?, (June 2011)  Journal AWWA, June 2011  http://www.agingwaterinfrastructure.org/SiteResource/Site_109155/Customize/Image/3.pdf

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