The Clock Is Ticking

Our infrastructure needs attention, and waiting only makes it worse.

The Clock Is Ticking

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Do you ever wish you had a crystal ball to glimpse the future of your utility and ensure you’re making the right decisions?

There’s no way to know what the future holds. There’s no way to guarantee you’re making the right decisions. You have to consider all the information you have at that given point in time and make the best possible decisions based on that information.

Of course, making the right decisions for your utility would be considerably easier if cost wasn’t a factor. Weighing that cost, however, often comes down to what’s less expensive today versus what’s fiscally advantageous over the long run. Making spot repairs is cheaper than replacing or rehabilitating pipes, but when you consider long-term costs and factor in added maintenance, inflow and infiltration, leaks, emergency repairs, water loss, etc., are you saving money or just kicking the can down the road?

This debate is nothing new. You probably struggle with it on a daily basis. And when the water is still flowing to your city council members’ homes and wastewater whisks away with every flush, it’s hard to convince them you need millions of dollars for system upgrades, especially if there’s a cheaper temporary fix.

I see story after story about the deteriorating state of not only water and wastewater, but all U.S. infrastructure. I don’t understand it. It should be the easiest thing to sell. It’s a critical piece of everything we do.

I think it speaks to a greater problem in this country. The ethos has changed. Supporting the common good, building a stronger future, thinking about tomorrow instead of today have fallen away to self-interest and personal benefit. It’s not something you can control, but you have to fight it, at least when it comes to your utilities.

The website provides a jarring look at the cost of failing water infrastructure. Much of the content on the site touts the lower break rates of PVC versus other pipe materials, as well as its corrosion resistance. The site is in fact tied to the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, but the “clock” portion at the top of the page provides running figures for the number of broken water mains since 2000, along with the number of broken mains that day and running totals for water main repair costs and total corrosion costs.

Watching the speed at which the numbers climb is jarring. Regardless of whether you think PVC is the answer to your water main problems, looking at the numbers, you can’t help but think there has to be a better way than the same old practices that generate these numbers. Doing things the same way just because that’s how they’ve always been done isn’t cutting it.

I’m not using this space to recommend one material or technology over another, but this site is a good reminder that the same old approach that’s more or less been used for a century isn’t solving these persistent problems. Look at the water main break clock. Do you want to be contributing to those numbers or slowing them down?

We all know the answer to that.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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