PVC Water Pipe Again Proves Its Merits In New Study
Dig-ups here and abroad confirm PVC water pipe's longevity in excess of 100 years.
Lilli Manolis Sherman
How does PVC pipe rate in water networks? A new comprehensive study on PVC pipe excavations, testing and lifecycle analysis from the Utah State University (USU) Buried Structures Laboratory gives it very high marks. USU is also home to the Utah Water Research Laboratory and has significantly contributed to water and wastewater research internationally for over 50 years.
This study reviews past dig-up reports and presents new quality control testing results that continue to validate the performance and longevity of PVC pipe used in water networks. The combination of pipe examination and testing data in conjunction with previous pipe-break studies support PVC as a sustainable pipe material and confirm its longevity in excess of 100 years. Says report author Dr. Steven Folkman, “Understanding the longevity of pipes improves the ability of a water utility to make better infrastructure investment decisions with improved affordability results for customers.”
PVC pipe was shown to have the lowest rate of water-main breaks of all pipe materials examined—including ductile iron, cast iron, steel, concrete, and asbestos cement—in a previous USU study on water- main breaks in the U.S. and Canada. The new study continues to explore PVC reliability and longevity and also examines the critical issue of affordability—an issue that could not be better timed as the U.S. water sector faces the difficult task of renewing its buried infrastructure. “This study provides the next body of evidence supporting the ability of utilities to address the failing infrastructure and the affordability dilemma,” says Folkman. He cites the U.S. Conference of Mayors which has determined that a total of $2.28 trillion is needed in water and wastewater piping over the next 20 years.
A major finding of this study is that U.S. water utilities can reduce water-main breaks and operations and maintenance costs by including corrosion-proof PVC piping in their replacement programs. USU’s earlier research has shown that corrosion of iron piping is a major problem for water systems and newer metallic pipes are experiencing failures more rapidly than older types because of their thinner walls.
Also highlighted in this report is that PVC pipes offer a high degree of resilience in freezing conditions, which is hoped will help reduce the ever-increasing number of iron pipes that fail annually fail during winter across the country. ‘Many utilities have fallen short in producing appropriate cost and life-cycle comparisons of pipe performance. Data on water pipe longevity must be combined with asset management techniques to make water and sewer infrastructure more durable and affordable. As well, elected officials, financial managers, and utility professionals must work together to create a new management paradigm for water and wastewater systems,” argues Folkman.
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