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Welcome to the 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 To do this, local governments and utilities need to modernize outdated procurement practices that ignore corrosion-proof PVC pipe.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 Executive Director Bruce Hollands shares the facts.

PVC and Fiberglass Gravity Sewer Pipes: Material Comparison
Posted on October 15, 2015 by Bruce Hollands

PVC sewer pipe is manufactured and tested per ASTM standard F679 and is now available in sizes up to 60 inches. Fiberglass sewer pipe is manufactured per ASTM standard D3262 and is available in diameters of 24 inches and larger.

The Truth About Pipe Stiffness and Pipe Deflection

Some fiberglass documents try to distinguish between PVC's pipe stiffness (PS) and FRP's nominal stiffness (SN), alleging that PVC needs to have higher pipe stiffness than fiberglass. However, science does not support fiberglass's contentions: the truth is that the same loadings applied to pipes with the same stiffness will result in the same deflections.

  • 46 psi PS for PVC equals 46 psi SN for fiberglass → same stiffness = same pipe deflection
  • 75 psi PS for PVC approximately equals 72 psi SN for fiberglass → same stiffness = same deflection

Science says that not only are fiberglass allegations unfounded, in reality the opposite is true: since PVC provides greater allowable pipe deflections, it is often the case that fiberglass is the material that requires higher pipe stiffness.

Comparison Shows PVC Advantage

For projects from 18- to 60-inch, PVC is the clear product of choice as shown by a direct comparison of the two materials. Click here for the PVC/Fiberglass Material Comparison Sheet.

Need Assistance with Your Large-Diameter Sewer Project?

If you are planning a large-diameter gravity sewer project, consider PVC instead of alternatives. PVC brings the same set of attributes to larger diameters that have made it the material of choice for smaller diameters for over 60 years. For assistance, call the PVC Pipe Association's engineering team at 972-243-3902 or email info@uni-bell.org.

PVC and Fiberglass Gravity Sewer Pipes: Material Comparison

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U.S. Conference of Mayors Says Open Pipe Procurement Can Reduce Rising Water and Sewer Rates
Posted on November 6, 2014 by Bruce Hollands

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. Click here for a memo on the subject by the National Association of Home Builders.

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.

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

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

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Buy Your PVC Pipe from Members of the PVC Pipe Association
Posted on November 6, 2013 by Bruce Hollands

More than 40,000 North American water and sewer utilities use cost-effective, corrosion-proof PVC pipe today and it has been in service on the continent for more than 60 years.

Founded in 1971, the PVC Pipe Association (PVCPA) serves the engineering, regulatory, public health and standardization communities and is the authoritative source of information on the design and application of gasketed-joint PVC pipe. PVCPA’s technical publications, research and recommended standards are recognized around the world.

The Association assists utilities and consulting engineers in the design, specification and installation of PVC piping systems and provides after-sales technical support. We believe that manufacturers of PVC pipe who are members of PVCPA are responsible producers and that municipalities should specify and buy their PVC pipe from them.

Responsible PVC pipe producers:

•Are committed to providing installation and after-sales support to their customers through their industry association;

•Contribute to collective research, development and testing of PVC pipe to ensure the highest quality and long-term performance possible;

•Work together with their industry association and other stakeholders to answer questions and address issues;

•Recognize the importance of better understanding PVC piping systems through up-to-date technical information, hands-on presentations, and assistance with specifications development and project design through participation in PVCPA, which in turn assists water and sewer utilities;

•Work with their industry association to maintain the required standards and to support certifications development.

Orange County, FL, Requires All Pipe Manufacturers Be Members of their Industry Associations

Only pipe manufacturers that are members of their industry associations can bid on water and sewer projects in Orange County, FL. “This ensures that these companies have the required technical expertise and resources to work with community engineers and that they are committed to after-sales customer service,” says Troy Layton, Utility Construction Division Manager, Orange County.

Update Your PVC Pipe Specifications Today!

Ensure installation and after-sales support from the PVC Pipe Association at no cost to your utility by specifying that the PVC pipe manufacturers who sell to your utility be members of the PVCPA (see Membership Directory on our website for our list of members). Assistance is not provided to utilities and consulting engineers for water and sewer projects that use PVC pipe purchased from non-members.

Click here for Chapter 3, Section 3114 of Orange County Utilities: Standards and Construction Specifications Manual for an example of how to update your specifications.

Buy Your PVC Pipe from Members of the PVC Pipe Association

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Water Pipe Safety-Factor Reduction: A Risky Proposal from the HDPE Industry
Posted on October 9, 2013 by Bruce Hollands

Conservative safety factors are key to the durability and cost-effectiveness of today’s infrastructure. Utility engineers have helped to ensure the longevity and high performance of North America’s piping networks by adhering to a minimum safety factor of 2.0 for their water system designs. Unfortunately, the polyethylene (HDPE) pipe industry is proposing a risky revision to the AWWA C906 standard that will reduce the safety factor on pressure class to 1.6. The change is based on material properties unrelated to pressure capacity and for which there is no precedence or valid scientific basis. Moreover, discussion of this issue has been muddled by the HDPE pipe industry’s inclusion of unrelated arguments about improvements in the “design factor.”

Design Factor and Safety Factor Explained

Essentially the revision is touted as an increase in design factor with no change to the safety factor. However, increasing the design factor effectively decreases the actual safety factor being applied.

In three AWWA pipe standards “design factor” and “safety factor” are defined clearly – design factor (DF) is the inverse of safety factor (SF):


The HDPE pipe industry is trying to revise long-established and clearly defined terms by maintaining that the two factors are independent of each other.

Expect Increased Risk of Pipeline Failure and Reduced System Design Life

The newly proposed material, PE4710, does not have any improvement in its pressure capacity compared to earlier HDPE materials: the Hydrostatic Design Basis (HDB) is identical at 1600 psi. If we divide by the 2.0 safety factor, the material’s Hydrostatic Design Stress is 800 psi. Yet the HDPE pipe industry is proposing 1000 psi, which means the safety factor is 1600/1000 = 1.6. This will increase the risk of pipe failure, shorten a pipe’s design life, and set a precedent for competing materials to seek lower safety factors.
The PVC Pipe Association recommends that water utility and consulting engineers continue with the long-established practice of using a safety factor of 2.0 in their pressure-pipe designs.

Click here for our Issue Brief on this important subject.


Water Pipe Safety-Factor Reduction: A Risky Proposal from the HDPE Industry

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Pipe Material Selection Key to Cost-Control and Performance of Water Systems
Posted on February 28, 2013 by Bruce Hollands

A 2010 U.S. Conference of Mayors report stated that spending requirements for the next 20 years (2009-2028) for both water and wastewater systems including capital, operations and maintenance and growth was $3.8 trillion. The underground pipes, as the EPA points out, are nearly 60 percent of the total costs and as a result are where municipalities can achieve significant savings. The cost of water pipes and their long-term performance are critical.

Up to 70 percent less expensive than iron pipe, PVC pipe is an easy winner when it comes to saving water utilities money on capital expenditures (See: "Pleasanton's Underground Infrastructure: Sustainability, Cost-Efficiency Through Better Materials Procurement Practices," U.S. Mayor). Equally important, PVC is also the best performing pipe available according to a landmark study by Utah State University’s (USU) Buried Structures Laboratory. Better performing pipes help reduce operations and maintenance costs, which are spiraling out of control at 6 percent above the annual rate of inflation mainly because of the use of corrosion-prone piping materials.

Study: PVC Pipe Has Lowest Failure Rate, Corrosion a Problem for 75% of U.S. Water Utilities

According to USU’s “Water Main Break Rates in the USA and Canada: A Comprehensive Study,” PVC pipe has the lowest overall failure rate when compared to cast iron, ductile iron, concrete, steel and asbestos cement pipes. Water main breaks are calculated for all pipe materials used in the transport of water to create a measurement to judge pipe performance and durability. The data for the comprehensive report was collected from 188 utilities, representing approximately 10% of the nation’s installed water main pipe network.

“Significantly, the study showed that when comparing between older cast iron and newer ductile iron, thinner-walled ductile iron is experiencing failures more rapidly.” Another major finding includes corrosion as a major cause of water main breaks: 75% of all utilities have corrosive soils and combined with a high portion of cast iron and ductile iron pipes, corrosion is ranked the second highest reason for water main pipe failure in the U.S – underlining the importance of using corrosion-proof PVC pipe in water systems.


Pipe Material Selection Key to Cost-Control and Performance of Water Systems

Pipe Material Selection Key to Cost-Control and Performance of Water Systems

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Sustainable PVC Pipe Helps Reduce Water Main Breaks in Indianapolis
Posted on July 10, 2012 by Bruce Hollands

A recent article by Indianapolis Mayor Gregory A. Ballard, which appeared in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council Newsletter, discusses how water main breaks declined in his city through the use of green, durable and cost-effective PVC pipe, realizing significant savings for rate payers. PVC pipe’s unequalled resistance to corrosion and its exceptional performance helped reduce costs and water main breaks in the city: “As we explored repair and replacement options we found that alternative pipe materials like PVC pipes have demonstrated superior performance… We also learned through life cycle analysis that PVC pipe has both a longer useful life than traditional pipe materials, and has a lower cost to both install and maintain… PVC pipes in our system have a failure rate 2.5 times less than traditional pipe materials,” writes Ballard.  Click here to read article.


Open Bidding Practices Key

Mayor Ballard also serves as Co-Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council.  Like his colleagues, Mayors Water Council Co-Chair Mayor Jennifer Hosterman of Pleasanton (CA) and former Co-Chair, Schenectady (NY) Mayor Brian Stratton, he emphasizes the importance of opening local procurement practices to alternative piping materials: “Water and wastewater operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, nationally, are increasing by six percent above inflation annually.  Using a non-corrosive material is critical to keeping long-term maintenance costs down and minimizing our capital replacement budgets,” explains Ballard.


State and Federal Lawmakers/Policy Makers Concerned About Lack of Competition for Piping

The growing awareness that corrosion and the lack of open bidding for piping are major problems in the U.S. water utility sector is also attracting the attention of state and federal lawmakers, who are considering including open procurement stipulations in funding bills for local water and wastewater projects. A report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, Fixing America’s Crumbling Underground Water Infrastructure: Competitive Bidding Offers a Way Out, suggests the EPA issue open procurement “guidelines for its State Revolving Funds program.”  All of this underscores the need for  municipalities to open up their procurement processes in an effort to tackle corrosion and reduce the costs associated with upgrading the nation’s deteriorating water and sewer systems. “The task at hand,” is to find the “most efficient and cost-effective solutions… Cities that have opened up the bidding process to PVC pipe have benefitted from the competition,” notes the report.  Click here to read report.




Sustainable PVC Pipe Helps Reduce Water Main Breaks in Indianapolis

Indianapolis Mayor
Gregory A. Ballard
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Posted on April 4, 2012 by Bruce Hollands

In his recent book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout, Co-founder and former Leader of Greenpeace, Dr. Patrick Moore discusses the importance and usefulness of PVC pipe to our society as well as its environmental and safety attributes. He says: “It is far superior to concrete or steel pipes as it seldom breaks down and does not corrode.  Vinyl pipe that has been buried for 50 years shows no sign of corrosion or decay.  It is likely it could remain in service for 500 years or more…”

In a recent interview with Sun TV Dr. Moore reiterates PVC pipe’s many advantages, including its affordability, corrosion resistance, leak-free joints, lower operation and maintenance costs, etc.  Click here to watch video.


PVC Pipe: Best Choice for the Environment

PVC pipe’s greatest environmental attribute is perhaps its exceptional durability and corrosion resistance – leading to better water conservation and lower replacement, maintenance and repair costs.  A study by the American Water Works Association Research Foundation recently put the life expectancy of PVC at more than 110 years, while a European study showed it had a design life of more than 170 years. Its durability, soundness, clean and energy efficient manufacture and transportation have made it the material of choice for water and wastewater applications. Click here to read more.


Dr. Patrick Moore
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Posted on November 8, 2011 by Bruce Hollands

The  bond market and investors are becoming increasingly aware of the rising costs of water and sewer services and the reluctance of elected officials to increase rates necessary to maintain adequate financial stability. As lenders, they want to know that utilities are pursuing sustainable water infrastructure options like open materials selections of non-corrosive pipes like PVC and other infrastructure asset management best practices.

A recent article by infrastructure expert and former utility CFO Greg Baird in The Bond Buyer: The Daily Newspaper of Public Finance discusses these points. In it Baird argues for better financial and operational management of water and wastewater utilities as a condition of public funding.  Click here to read.

With pipe representing the largest component of a utility's assets, the life-cycle costs and performance of piping materials is critical.  

Piping also significantly impacts operations and maintenance costs, which are spiraling out of control at 6 per cent above inflation because of the corrosion-prone metallic piping in the ground: "Prior to any new public-private or federal funding or bailouts, infrastructure asset management best practices should be employed with the goal of maintaining an asset at an acceptable level of service at the lowest life-cycle."

Municipalities need to consider PVC for all pipe replacement projects given its low cost, long-life and sustainable attributes. 

The Bond Buyer is the premier publication for infrastructure investment in the United States.  Readers include investors, financial institutions and advisors, credit agencies and every municipal bond issuer.

Greg Baird is an expert on infrastructure planning and funding issues and his research is published nationally and internationally.He served as CFO of Colorado's third-largest utility and as a California municipal finance officer. Baird is an active member of the American Water Works Association and also serves on the Economic Development and Planning Committee with the Government Finance Officers Association for the United States and Canada. 




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PVC Pipe Addresses Corrosion Crisis and Offers Sustainability, Says AWWA Journal Article
Posted on June 9, 2011 by Bruce Hollands

A recent article from the AWWA Journal argues that PVC pipe is the most cost-effective and environmentally sound solution to the corrosion crisis afflicting U.S. water systems. Click here to read.
Written by water infrastructure expert and former utility CFO Gregory M. Baird, the article emphasizes the versatility of PVC, calling it “a game changer for a nation dealing with corrosion issues while looking for financially sustainable infrastructure to meet both replacement and expansion needs."
Arguing that long-term financial and asset management planning are needed for water systems, the author underlines that PVC is the consistent frontrunner when such methods are used to compare piping materials, demonstrating its cost savings “over ferrous materials such as ductile iron and steel while addressing corrosion issues and matching long-term performance.”
Referencing a study that shows PVC has a lower carbon footprint than both ductile iron and recycled ductile iron pipe, Baird also notes that PVC pipe meets many of the sustainability criteria being considered by the USEPA's Aging Water Infrastructure (AWI) Research Program.

As well, Baird stresses the importance of open procurement practices to include "PVC pipe as a low-cost, long-term, durable and sustainable option" in municipal bids. Utilities that fail to adopt such practices, he says, “are open to harsh criticism by both ratepayers and potential bondholders."
The PVC Pipe Association is pleased that the AWWA Journal has published Mr. Baird’s comprehensive review of PVC pipe’s outstanding qualities. In print for over 90 years, the Journal is a leading source of information on water and water utility management that reaches 90,700 readers every month. 

PVC Pipe Addresses Corrosion Crisis and Offers Sustainability, Says AWWA Journal Article

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Pleasanton: A Model for America's Water and Wastewater Infrastructure
Posted on April 26, 2011 by Bruce Hollands

In these tough economic times, the City of Pleasanton, California’s commitment to spending wisely and building state-of-the-art underground water and wastewater systems provides the example to follow for local governments nationwide.

Pleasanton's experience with corrosion-prone piping material required adoption of costly measures to protect its iron pipe against inevitable corrosion-induced failure.

As an alternative to this, and to better control costs, Pleasanton began using corrosion-proof PVC pipe in the mid-1980s because it doesn’t need coatings, liners, or other materials to ensure its strength or sustainability. And in the past decade, over 90 percent of the new pipe installed in Pleasanton has been PVC, which now makes up about a third of the City’s water and wastewater lines.

The results have been very impressive, according to an article by Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer Hosterman in the March issue of U.S. Mayor. The article notes that PVC pipe is about 70 percent cheaper to use than ductile iron and that its installation is less labor intensive.  

The Pleasanton approach rests on a dedication to improving customer service, managing tax dollars wisely, and adopting open procurement policies that welcome alternate and better performing materials like PVC pipe.

Giving taxpayers the best bang for the buck should be the chief goal for mayors and local elected officials across the country, and the City of Pleasanton provides a prime example of what happens when elected officials and utilitiy operators work together, open up bidding and embrace innovative practices and technologies.  

It's time more localities embraced proven and truly sustainable materials like PVC pipe for use in underground infrastructure.  

To read Mayor Hosterman's article, click on the following link:


Pleasanton: A Model for America's Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

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