Federal infrastructure spending in the water sector: a unique opportunity

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

Unfortunately, that old adage is relevant today in too many communities across the United States that do not have access to enough safe, clean drinking water.

But as a positive development to address this challenge, there has recently been a huge push to invest in water infrastructure, thanks to new federal funding as a result of COVID relief and federal infrastructure legislation. The US EPA develops new programs and, in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture, makes significant investments in state revolving funds to improve water systems, particularly rural ones.

With billions of dollars spent on water systems, elected officials, utilities and others responsible for making pipe decisions have a great responsibility to select the best pipe for their communities. The Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association has a longstanding commitment to listening to engineers and experts on the ground. In fact, our association prides itself on having 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 underground water and sewer lines and our understanding of how they can withstand the challenges they face for decades (or more). have to.

Ductile iron pipe is the strongest and most resilient pipe available for transporting potable water. It is the descendant of cast iron, which has been used for more than 100 years and in some communities for more than 150 years. DIPRA celebrates the strength and durability of iron pipe 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 pipe that are more than 150 years old.

The technology and innovations of American ductile iron manufacturers have resulted in pipes that can withstand seasonal weather conditions, be they freezing or simmering temperatures, and also natural events such as wildfires, which are growing stronger and more severe as climate change progresses.

Other, sometimes lesser, pipe materials often rupture under pressure or melt during wildfires, potentially leading to the contamination of drinking water supplies with volatile chemicals. Sometimes the temptation is tempting to pay less for costly infrastructure projects using inferior materials. But buyers beware. Lower quality tubing and those made from inferior materials break more easily and do not have Ductile’s life cycle expectations, potentially resulting in repairs and replacements that can be more expensive than the initial tubing installation.

If ductile iron and other types of pipe are compared fairly, including lifetime costs, ductile iron is by far the clear winner. Our pipes have a lifespan of over 100 years, while other materials can only last 50 to 60 years. We make pipes that last for generations to provide clean, safe drinking water for your grandchildren’s grandchildren.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out what others have said recently about ductile iron pipe 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 “more resistant to rupture.” The Suffolk County Water Board in New York installs ductile iron pipe in Bridgehampton and notes that it is “much more resistant to rupture and expected to last well over 100 years.” Connecticut Water is replacing cast iron pipe with ductile iron, with the system manager for Distribution System Engineering commenting, “It’s the latest technology.” So are communities and utilities along the entire West Coast, out Los Angeles water too Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, have included ductile iron in their seismic design due to its superior resilience in the face of natural disasters; That’s why East Bay MUD in Oakland, Calif., describes the ductile iron pipe they’re installing as the “next generation of pipe” that the utility believes should last “150 years.”

The amount of federal funding going into water infrastructure is truly a unique opportunity to create the kind of water systems our communities deserve. No one should ever question whether their water is safe to drink, bathe in or use for cooking. The first step in developing these systems that will last for generations is to use the best pipes that will last the longest, are the strongest, most resilient, and guarantee clean, safe drinking water. The only pipes that can withstand this requirement are made of ductile cast iron.

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

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