A webinar participant asked the question below:
“We are considering a system betterment program for about 500 miles of water pipe and associated fittings, valves, hydrants, etc. What are the most critical issues we should consider before going forward? Our system is 30 years old and we experience numerous year-round leaks system wide.”
Well first thing that you want to think about is kind of getting a hand on exactly what’s happening. So hopefully, what you’re doing already is mapping where those breaks are actually occurring.
And (you are) really looking hard at:
- what particular pipe type the breaks are occurring in,
- whether there are any trends regarding the size of the pipe,
- the type of the pipe,
- the location of the breaks,
- the types of breaks, and
- what’s causing the breaks?
So is it being caused by construction accidents for example which is very different than degradation of the pipe? Is it being caused by poor bedding material? Or poor installation? Is it caused by poor materials? What are those breaks actually look like?
Because you really want to zero in and make sure that you have a thorough understanding of exactly what’s causing the breaks and what pipe type and location they’re in.
Because that can change very significantly what you’re going to do about it. So many times if you have a variety of pipe types, the breaks are occurring more predominantly in one pipe type than another.
So you want to focus on the specific actions that’s causing the breaks for specific type of pipes so that you focus your corrective actions.
If you’re doing leak detection or pipe repair, pipe replacement that you really focus those on the type of pipe that is having the problem.
We often look at the community and they’ll say we’re having breaks throughout the whole system and you find out that’s not really true.
Maybe it’s the steel pipe they put in the 1970 that’s causing all the problems or there’s a particular location were soils are really bad and that’s where the problems are.
See, the more you can focus your records on your problem pipe, the better you can expand the money that you’re putting forward on that effort.
I think one of the other things to look out for is making sure that you’re getting reasonably accurate data coming back from your crews about what is happening.
I remember a client who had a very similar question. They were convinced that quite a long length of the main line that was on pretty poor condition because they were getting a lot of breaks and they were recorded as main line breaks.
When they dug into it, they found out that it was service line breaks that’s coming off the main and they’ve just been reported the wrong way in the maintenance management or the asset management system. They were making a whole set of very expensive decisions around what was an inaccurate data.
So I guess my suggestion would be:
- Validate the information that you’re getting.
- Go and talk to the crews who do the work when you’re making those decisions.
- Make sure that they were recording the work correctly, and
- Make sure you’re not dealing with the wrong problem through just poor data recording or just confusion around data recording.
PHOTO CREDIT: Vic Bess via Flickr Creative Commons License.