Pipe Issues Blog

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North America's underground infrastructure is crumbling at an alarming rate, so smarter, more cost-effective and sustainable practices are needed.

Broader use of PVC pipe would solve this problem and enable municipalities to spend taxpayer dollars more wisely. To do this, local governments and utilities need to modernize outdated procurement practices that ignore corrosion-proof PVC pipe.

Explore our web site and visit my blog to learn about the exceptional performance and environmental attributes of PVC pipe, and why it should be included in every bid for water and wastewater infrastructure. To connect to my blog, bookmark this page or link our Pipe Issues Blog to your RSS feed program.

Industry expert and Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association President & CEO Bruce Hollands shares the facts.

Bruce Hollands

U.S. Conference of Mayors Says Open Pipe Procurement Can Reduce Rising Water and Sewer Rates

Posted By Bruce Hollands on Nov 6, 2014

A study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) says open pipe procurement can reduce rising water and sewer utility rates. Click here for report.

The report entitled, Municipal Procurement: Procurement Process Improvements Yield Cost-Effective Public Benefits, discusses the tendency of many municipalities to buy traditional piping materials like ductile iron pipe without reviewing other options. Instead, municipal utilities should be focused on finding savings and efficiencies through open pipe selection practices.

Keep Rising Utility Rates in Check Through Competitive Pipe Procurement

Underground piping represents 60 percent of the total spending for water and wastewater infrastructure (including capital and operations and maintenance costs), so it is here where open procurement practices should be focused, says report author Richard F. Anderson, Ph.D., Senior Advisor, USCM Mayors Water Council. According to the study, an estimated $2.28 trillion in infrastructure piping will be needed over the next 20 years to upgrade the nation’s deteriorating underground piping networks. Updating procurement policies could help your community realize significant costs savings.

“The common practice of choosing metallic pipes without a full financial evaluation continues to dominate procurement decision-making…Only by modernizing procurement practices and the assumptions upon which pipes are selected can municipalities achieve much needed cost-savings and performance improvements in their underground infrastructure at a time of dwindling financial resources,” says Dr. Anderson.

Pipe Materials Cost Comparison Worksheet

A cost comparison methodology for water pipes developed during the study is a useful tool that can be used by finance managers and utility engineers. Click here for the Pipe Materials and Corrosion Cost Comparison Worksheet.

Competitive Bidding Stretches Scarce Dollars

Competitive bidding stretches scarce dollars and helps keep utility rates in check. PVC pipe has been shown to be up to 70 percent less expensive than iron piping. Here are two articles by Co-Chairs of the USCM Mayors Water Council on their excellent experience with corrosion-proof PVC piping:

Make Your Municipality More Attractive to Developers and Housing More Affordable

Restrictive procurement policies for underground infrastructure may cause developers to bypass your community and build new housing projects in other jurisdictions where access to all piping materials is allowed. As well, this drives up costs for new subdivisions and makes homeownership less affordable.

Review Procurement Policies

Your municipality can only benefit by reviewing its procurement policies. Get more cost-effective and more durable piping infrastructure for every taxpayer dollar because no matter what material is finally chosen for a project, the price of all pipe goes down when all products that meet recognized standards are included in the bidding process.

Thinner-Walled Ductile Iron Pipe May Only Last 11 to 14 Years Says U.S. Conference of Mayors Report

Dr. Anderson of the USCM Mayors Water Council points out that thinner-walled ductile iron pipes “corrode and fail more quickly than their thicker cast iron predecessors” and are more expensive to buy and operate than PVC pipe. For these and other reasons, municipalities must undertake rigorous cost comparisons for all the piping they buy. “Focusing on pipe material selection is the first step in reducing system capital cost, and, subsequently, operations and maintenance costs (O&M),” says Anderson.

Longevity of PVC Piping

We encourage you and your staff to review a recent study by Utah State University’s (USU) Buried Structures Laboratory on PVC pipe longevity. A 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. Click here for report.

PVC water pipe is a durable, high performance product. A report from the American Water Works Association projects PVC pipe’s longevity at more than 110 years and a European study estimates its lifespan at 170 years.

Over 40,000 Utilities in North America Use PVC Pipe

PVC pipe has been widely used in North America for over 60 years and is a cost effective, long-lasting solution which can substantially reduce the cost to renew iron pipelines that are failing. There are over two million miles of PVC pipe in service and over 10 million water quality tests have been performed on PVC water pipe, confirming its health and safety benefits.

Technical Considerations

There are almost no valid technical reasons for not including PVC pipe in municipal bids except when operating pressures are above 305 psi or when water temperature is above 140°F. These design conditions are extremely rare for a utility to encounter. The average operating pressure for water systems in North America is only 77 psi (with pressure fluctuations less than 20 psi) – as a result, almost every infrastructure project should consider PVC pipe.

We encourage municipal lawmakers across the county to request that utility and finance staff review their pipe procurement policies and include PVC pipe in all project bids. If your community’s use of PVC is limited to smaller diameters, it’s time to look at larger sizes (now made up to 60 inches) to reap similar performance and cost benefits.

Please do not hesitate to contact the PVC Pipe Association at info@uni-bell.org for technical information on the design and installation of PVC piping systems.