PVC Pipes Emerge as Top Performer in Utah State University’s Extensive Water Main Break Analysis

28/02/2024
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PVC Pipes at PVC 2024: Pioneering Hydrogen Transport and Ensuring +100 Years of Service Life
24/01/2024
Plastic Pipes XXII logo
PPXXII Calling for Abstracts
02/05/2024

PVC leads as the most utilised and increasingly preferred pipe material in North America with the lowest break rates.

Utah State University has released an update to the 2018 study on water main breaks, reaffirming the exceptional performance of PVC pipes in underground infrastructure. This exhaustive study led by Professor Steven L. Barfuss, building on the findings of 2012 and 2018, represents one of the most statistically significant examinations of water main durability to date, encompassing material type, pipe diameter, age, usage trends, break rates, soil corrosion effects, and utility size characteristics across the U.S. and Canada.

The study's robust methodology involved surveys from 802 participants for basic data and 172 utilities for detailed information, aiming to identify average water main break rates by material and diameter. Key highlights include:

  • Vast Data Collection: Data from nearly 400,000 miles of water mains were analysed, covering 17.1% of the total estimated length in the U.S. and Canada. This sample size, nearly three times larger than the 2018 study, provides increased accuracy in findings.
  • PVC Pipes Lead in Durability: PVC pipes exhibited the lowest break rate among commonly used materials, affirming their reliability and cost-effectiveness for water infrastructure projects.
  • Shifts in Material Usage: The study observed a notable reduction in cast iron and asbestos cement pipe inventory, with PVC pipe usage increasing by 7.0% since 2018. This reflects ongoing shifts towards more durable and sustainable piping solutions.
  • Regional Preferences: Material usage varies significantly by region, with PVC pipes being the most used in several areas, indicating a trend toward its preference due to its longevity and lower maintenance requirements.
  • Aging Infrastructure: A significant portion of the cast iron and asbestos cement pipes are over 50 years old, highlighting the urgent need for upgrades to more durable materials like PVC.

This comprehensive analysis offers invaluable insights for utility managers, enabling better asset management and informed procurement decisions. By comparing their systems with the study's benchmarks, utilities can enhance the reliability and efficiency of their water infrastructure, ensuring sustainable service delivery to communities.

The study's findings underscore the strategic importance of PVC pipes in addressing the challenges of aging water infrastructure, offering a durable, cost-effective solution for modernising essential services across North America and beyond.

Read report.