New Pipe Study Finds Break Rates Increased 27% in Six Years

Researchers at Utah State University recently released a comprehensive study of the break rates for commonly used pipe materials in the U.S. and Canada. The study collected data from over 300 water systems with around 200,000 miles of water mains in 48 states and 7 provinces that serve over 52 million people (14.5% of the population in the U.S. and Canada). The study analyzed data from 23,803 main breaks.

Water main breaks are a numerical indicator of the condition of water infrastructure and are frequently used in the decision-making for prioritizing which water mains to replace. Break rates increased 27% in the past six years. The increases in break rates for cast iron (CI) and asbestos cement (AC) pipe were higher, at 46% and 43%, respectively.

Several other conclusions resulted from this study. The percentage of water mains which are beyond their useful life double from 8% to 16% since 2012 (the date of the previous study). The percentage of water mains over 50 years old has increased from 22% to 28% since 2012. Corrosion can be a major cause of water main breaks, with 75% of water systems reporting corrosive soil conditions.