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Each day, 850 water main breaks occur in North America. Since January 2000, we have suffered:

broken water mains (including  so far today),

in water main repair costs.

According to a 2002 congressional study, corrosion costs U.S. water and waste water systems over $50.7 billion annually. Since January 2000, the price tag for this epidemic in the United States is:

in total corrosion costs.


Tracking The Costs Of The Corrosion Epidemic


Competitive Bidding is the Solution

“Opening up the bidding process under the principle of ‘may the best technology win’ will go a long way to improving the quality of the nation’s underground infrastructure in a cost-effective fashion…Cities that have open up the bidding process to PVC pipe have benefited from the competition.”

Bonner R. Cohen
Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, DC


Big Savings

“Each $1 billion in PVC pipe purchased translates into an estimated $500 million in avoided corrosion costs.”

Gregory R. Ruschau, P.h.D.
Corrosion Expert/Former Senior Project Manager
CC Technologies Laboratories, Inc.


“Mind-boggling” Price Tag

“[...] fix the leaky pipes! The amount of fully treated and expensive potable water that we lose every day - even in this country - is mind-boggling. There is no other industry on earth that would tolerate the sort of product losses that we routinely experience in the water industry. Simply fixing our leaky distribution infrastructure would give us a lot of breathing room in some of the more critically short cities.”

Steve Maxwell, Water Market Review: 2010 Update and Executive Summary, Techknowledgey Strategic Group.


Replacement Costs Increasing

“This type of crisis management costs the utility politically and monetarily. In fact, the replacement costs have just increased three-fold as the additional costs of the emergency mobilization of work crews and property damage are included...”

Gregory M. Baird, Managing Director of AWI Consulting LLC
Water Utility Infrastructure Management Magazine, Nov/Dec 2010


Corrosion Costs... A Lot

“Fifty percent of all operation and maintenance costs ... and ninety percent of lost water costs are corrosion-related.”

Gregory R. Ruschau, P.h.D.
Corrosion Expert/Former Senior Project Manager
CC Technologies Laboratories, Inc.


Why So Many Water Main Breaks?

Corrosion, leaks and breaks in old-technology pipe materials are degrading our water delivery and sewage treatment systems, which are critical to public health and the environment.

Every day, 850 water main breaks occur in North America at a total annual repair cost of over $3 billion. This doesn't include the high costs of emergency equipment, depleted water supply, traffic disruptions, and lost work time. Experts note that corrosion is the leading cause of this water main break epidemic.

Corrosion is a significant drag on the economy, costing U.S. drinking water and wastewater systems over $50.7 billion annually, or more than $1 trillion dollars over the next twenty years. Not only is this cost calculated in terms of water main break repair, but also in terms of lost water, replacement of corroded pipes and implementation of corrosion-mitigation measures, which are ineffective since they only delay an unavoidable outcome.

Today's corrosion crisis is due to the materials used in America's underground pipe networks over the last 100 years. At first, cast iron was used, with ductile iron gradually replacing it. Both now suffer from the ravages of corrosion.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given poor marks to the nation's public drinking and wastewater systems, saying hundreds of billions must be spent over the next two decades for upgrades and replacements.

Taxpayers are fed up. Local governments are scrambling for solutions.

Learn more about the Corrosion Epidemic here.

A Public Health Concern

Tuberculation is a form of internal corrosion and bio-film contamination which develops in iron pipes and restricts water flow. It can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

The town of Walkerton, Ontario provides a case in point. In 2000, E-coli had infiltrated the municipality's iron-pipe water network, and purging it from the system was extremely difficult. Only after repeated and costly flushing with super-chlorination was the piping system safe to use again.

Unlike iron pipe, PVC pipe is not affected by tuberculation. Its smooth, non-corrosive surface stays clean even after decades.

Today, Walkerton, now part of the Municipality of Brockton, is replacing its iron pipes with PVC. In fact, it's the only material the community now uses in its water system. Says Colin Saunders, Brockton's utilities manager, "With PVC pipe, I don't have concerns about corrosion, tuberculation or water main breaks, and this means lower maintenance costs and a longer lasting piping network."

The Solution: PVC Pipe

While certain pipe manufacturers continue to explore “solutions” to corrosion – because their materials are affected by it – PVC remains indisputably resistant to it.

Graph of avg. repair costs for ductile iron and PVC pipes.

PVC pipe is a proven and extremely durable alternative to traditional corrosion-prone pipe materials. Recognized by state, national and international agencies and standards organizations, it has been a benchmark since it was introduced in the U.S. sewer, water and drainage markets in the 1950s.

Over two million miles of PVC water and sewer pipe are currently in service. A review by Engineering News Record in 1999 found PVC for water and sewer pipe to be one of the top twenty engineering advancements in more than a century.

An American Water Works Association Research Foundation study confirms the life expectancy of PVC pipe to be in excess of 110 years.

PVC’s cost-effectiveness and sustainability are important qualities that city and local lawmakers should be considering–and taxpayers should be demanding.

So Why Aren't We Using PVC More Widely?

Outdated procurement rules in some municipalities ignore proven materials like PVC pipe. Closing bids to qualified products prevents informed decisions from being made, resulting in higher costs.

"The traditional habit of using one or two pipe materials exclusively is no longer satisfactory, local officials need to compare all proven pipe materials," says Schenectady (NY) Mayor Brian Stratton, co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council:

Since pipe is the largest component of a water utility's assets, it's critical that steps be taken to ensure its long-term sustainability, which will help utilities hold the line on costs.

PVC is the most cost-effective and durable piping material available today, and procurement practices should be reformed to ensure it helps solve the corrosion crisis in every municipality.

Our country's underground infrastructure is at a crossroads. The time has come to put an end to the corrosion crisis and include PVC pipe in all municipal bids for underground infrastructure.

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