Sustainable Infrastructure Awards Showcase Performance of PVC Pipe 10/04/08

Three utilities, two in Canada and one in the United States, have received the first International Awards for Sustainable Infrastructure in recognition of their outstanding performance records, their excellent management of infrastructure assets, and their substantial savings in repair costs.

EPCOR Water Services Inc., of Edmonton, Alberta; the Calgary (Alberta) Utilities and Environmental Department; and Water Development Association (WEB) of Aberdeen, S.D., were selected for the award, which is sponsored by the Committee for Sustainable Infrastructure.

The two Canadian utilities are in the vanguard of asset management, said Bob Walker, chair of the Committee for Sustainable Infrastructure and executive director of the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, based in Dallas. He explained that these utilities identified the types, sizes and locations of all of the pipe in their water distribution networks, and they analyzed the performance of each pipe material. They found that repairs of corrodible iron pipes exceeded those of non-corrodible PVC pipes by a ratio of 281 to 1 for EPCOR and 291 to 1 for Calgary. Ambitious programs to replace iron pipe with PVC pipe enabled both Calgary and Edmonton to avoid having to impose substantial rate increases on their ratepayers. Walker said the savings have been estimated at more than $5 million a year in avoided water main repair costs.

Steve Stanley, EPCOR senior vice president, said that by increasing the use of longer-life, lower- maintenance assets, "our system has become sustainable."

At WEB, the water main break rate is more than 120 times lower than the national median. One of the largest rural water systems in the U.S., WEB's 6,500 miles of PVC pipe service a geographic area the size of Connecticut. According to Mark Lindseth, general manager, "The WEB system would not be possible, in terms of sustainability or affordability, if it weren't for PVC water mains."

The International Awards for Sustainable Infrastructure were conceived to encourage awareness about infrastructure and to spotlight excellence. "There is arguably no more important public service than that of providing safe drinking water and the environmentally conscientious disposal of wastewater, even though most of us take these essential services for granted and don't give much thought to the huge investment that our communities have in water and wastewater infrastructure," Walker said.

The Committee for Sustainable Infrastructure is currently comprised of water industry engineers from across the U.S. and Canada. Plans are to expand the geographic reach next year to include candidates beyond North America, Walker said.

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