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Managing Pipelines For Long Term Sustainability

This notion came to life in a North American survey conducted in 2014 and published online this year in The American Water Works Association Journal on current sustainable infrastructure practices among water and wastewater utilities.

Authored by associate professor Amy Landis, the survey found that of the 125 American utilities that responded, less than half “failed to implement some form of sustainability practice, which ranged from renewable energy to infrastructure repair to demand management. Of the respondents, only 18 percent of utilities reported publishing a sustainability policy or vision.”

Surprising results in spite of critical importance

The results are rather surprising, considering that sustainable water infrastructure is critical to providing the American public with clean and safe water. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives drinking water and wastewater infrastructure a “D” grade, which puts the infrastructure in “poor and at risk” with most of the assets approaching end of service life, some reaching the age of 100 years old or more.

For combined water and wastewater utilities, the most common selected metric to evaluate sustainability practice was “water consumption and/or water delivery efficiency” at 63 percent. Coming in second for sustainable infrastructure practice was “employ trenchless pipe repair and/or rehabilitation.”

Old main

Buried assets are approaching end of service life, some reaching the age of 100 years old or more.

Helping water utilities embrace sustainability

The good news is that it is easier today for public water utilities to move forward on the path to social, environmental, and economic sustainability. Modern inline technologies and precise data analysis tools certainly help the effort.

For more than a decade, Pure Technologies has played a key role in helping progressive utilities follow through with actions to promote sustainable practices for their water and wastewater infrastructure.

Sustainable practices include helping pipeline owners optimize capital and remaining useful life as they seek to more efficiently manage their assets.

As a trusted global leader specializing in the assessment, monitoring and management of pressurized pipelines, Pure has completed structural condition assessment on more than 8,000 miles of critical water mains. This has helped utilities avoid critical pipeline failures that can be expensive to remediate and damaging to their reputation. In addition, Pure has located more than 4,000 leaks on mains using inline leak detection. Through these activities, billions of gallons have water have been saved through repaired leaks and avoided pipe failures.

Pipe Surface Inspection

By understanding the operational conditions in their system, utilities can develop a defensible plan for managing their infrastructure.

Capital savings can be invested back into the system

The numbers continue to impress. Based on Pure’s condition assessment data, we have found that 96 percent of pipe sections do not have any deterioration at all and are in “like new” condition, while less than 1 percent of pipe sections require immediate repair. This is comforting information to utilities with aging pipelines still in operation, as is the case with the remarkable cast iron water main buried in 1831 beneath what is now Greenwich Village.

By identifying and repairing isolated sections that require intervention followed by a long-term management strategy, a utility can realize major capital program savings over replacement or large-scale rehabilitation. On average, a utility owner can proactively manage a pipeline for 5 to 15 percent of the capital replacement cost. The money saved can be invested to fix and sustain other parts of the system.

The U.S. EPA and ASCE estimate the funding costs associated with buried infrastructure ranges from more than $200 billion to 1 trillion over the next 25 years. The numbers are staggering. Pure Technologies is helping utilities manage their buried infrastructure through its Assess and Address™ approach to pipeline management, and as result, has saved clients hundreds of millions of dollars in replacement costs.

Public pressure to do the right thing

With drought, climate change and water conservation now part of the daily conversation, the pressure is on for public utilities to incorporate sustainable practices into their planning. It’s the right thing to do, from an economic, environment and social standpoint.

By having a strong understanding of the risk and operational conditions of different areas in their system, an appropriate and defensible inspection plan can be developed. This process allows utilities to develop a sustainable long-term strategy for managing their infrastructure well into the next century.