You don’t think about your water pipes until you have a reason to. Some people and towns know this better than others, with their old water pipes leaking and breaking. As a result, many towns have switched to ductile iron pipes. These pipes are more durable and last much longer than steel, cast iron, and PVC pipes. Even better, they are made out of 90% recycled material!

Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau worker prepares land for pipe installation
Portland Water Bureau worker prepares land for pipe installation; Photo Credit: Portland Water Bureau

Portland’s Water Bureau broke a record for new pipe installation in the fiscal year 2020-2021 by proactively replacing 31,700 feet of pipe. The cast-iron pipes that Portland’s water system was built on are around 125 years old and are beginning to crack and rust. 

Currently, Portland has 150 to 200 water main breaks every year—a relatively low number compared to jurisdictions around the country. However, the Water Bureau wants to get ahead of potential water failures and plans on replacing the cast iron pipe with ductile iron pipes over the next 20 years. The ductile iron pipes should last at least 250 years with Portland’s soil conditions. 

Troy, NY

Aftermath of Troy's water pipe burst
Aftermath of Troy’s water pipe burst; Photo Credit: Times Union

Troy is replacing water mains that have been in the ground for more than a century. The people in the town know firsthand how important a strong pipe is; in January 2016, a 110-year-old steel pipe in their town cracked. Its damage and replacement cost $2.7 million, and eight million gallons of water spilled into part of the city, shutting down the water supply for surrounding communities. 

Troy chose U.S. Pipe’s ductile iron pipe with a metallic zinc coating for their new pipe. These pipes will last upwards of 200 years. Metallic zinc provides extra external corrosion protection of the ductile iron pipe, and it protects millions of feet of ductile iron pipes since it became available in 1958.

Prescott, AZ

Cracked PVC pipe in Prescott, Arizona
Cracked PVC pipe in Prescott

Photo Credit: U.S. Pipe

After years of multiple costly water breaks, the City of Prescott in Arizona decided to eliminate PVC pipe as a material for new water mains. Prescott began using PVC pipes in 1985, and pipes experienced notable failures within just 10 years of their installation. To date, the city has spent more than $4 million replacing about 14,700 linear feet of broken PVC pipes. Additionally, a cast-iron water main broke in early 2021 after being in the ground for just 50 years. 

In order to prevent future water pipe issues, Prescott is switching to ductile iron pipes. The town knows that they have a much longer lifespan than PVC and cast iron pipes, and believe that this switch will make Prescott’s water mains much less vulnerable to future water mains.

Coachella Valley, CA

Installation of ductile iron pipes
Installation of ductile iron pipes; Photo Credit: U.S. Pipe

When the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) was tasked with a large infrastructure replacement project that required over 18,000 feet of pipe, they knew that U.S. Pipe’s ductile iron pipe was the best choice.

One of their main reasons for choosing ductile iron pipes is their longevity—they know that these pipes will outlast the next generation of engineers. Additionally, the pipes are equipped with restrained joints which provide a certain level of earthquake and seismic resistance, especially important in California. This water system also utilizes many above-ground reservoirs, so temperature changes are a factor in the pipes. Since ductile iron pipes do not have temperature de-rating, temperature fluctuation will not be a concern. 

To watch ductile iron pipe be made and installed, stream Tomorrow World Today’s “Pipe Dreams” on SCIGo and Discovery GO!