In the 20th century, most of the water systems and distribution pipes were relatively new and well within their expected lifespan. However, a recent report by the American Water Works Association (AWWA, 2001) and a white paper by the American Water Works Service Company, Inc. (AWWSC, 2002) point out that these different types of pipes, installed during different time periods, will all be reaching the end of their expected life spans in the next 30 years. Analysis of main breaks at one large Midwestern water utility that kept careful records of distribution system management documented a sharp increase in the annual number of main breaks from 1970 (approximately 250 breaks per year) to 1989 (approximately 2,200 breaks per year) (AWWSC, 2002). Thus, the water industry is entering an era where it must make substantial investments in pipe repair and pipe replacement. An EPA report on water infrastructure needs (EPA, 2002c) predicted that transmission and distribution replacement rates will need to be around 0.3 percent per year in 2005 and will rise to 2.0 percent per year by 2040 in order to adequately maintain the water infrastructure (see Figure 1). Cost estimates for drinking water infrastructure range from $4.2 to $6.3 billion per year (AWWSC, 2002). The trends of aging pipe and increasing numbers of main breaks are of concern because of the potential relationship between waterborne disease outbreaks and main breaks (see the subsequent section on New and Repaired Water Mains).

FIGURE 1 Projected annual replacement needs for transmission lines and distribution mains, 2000–2075. SOURCE: EPA (2002c).

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