Underneath every town and city lays billions of dollars’ worth of pipes, wire and tunnels, commonly referred to as underground infrastructure. Built decades ago, tunnels for sewers, water, wastewater, electrical, utilities and telecommunications infrastructure are deteriorating at record speed. This is just one topic being discussed at this year’s Annual Conference & Exposition (ACE) from American Water Works Association (AWWA) in Anaheim, CA. Onvia is excited to attend the expo this year to learn about infrastructure related issues, as well as water and wastewater concerns affecting state agencies.
This issue of aging infrastructure is not something new to government agencies. Rehabilitating or replacing buried infrastructure is a long and expensive process that most states can’t afford with the current budgets. Deteriorating sewage pipes underground can lead to giant sinkholes if not repaired or replaced in a timely manner. The holes form over several years and finally give way after the pipes have fully corroded. According to Hazen & Sawyer, a leading environmental engineering firm, it can “cost 3 to 4 times more to repair critical pipes after they fail than to rehabilitate them at the first signs of deterioration.” Existing sewers are mostly clay pipes which can crack as they deteriorate with age and also by earth movement. Onvia’s Project Center reveals that in 2014 alone, there were 121 bid requests for projects related to underground infrastructure repair.
State & Local Agencies Seeking Innovative Solutions to Address an Old Problem
Government agencies are constantly on the lookout for innovative cost saving ideas to replace and repair buried infrastructure. Lucid Energy is also working in different cities to bring their renewable energy systems based on hydropower technology called Power System to be more mainstream. Lucid Energy created an “in-pipe turbine generator that efficiently recaptures energy embedded in fast-flowing water inside large-diameter pipelines without disrupting operations and with no environmental impact.” They use the energy from flowing water to create a source of electricity which can be fed to the grid to lessen energy costs. Portland General Electric (PGE) in Oregon serves 52 communities and seven counties, recently installed Lucid’s Power System in their water pipeline.
In December of 2012, the City of Bayonne in New Jersey entered into a public private partnership with United Water and KKR for a 40-year partnership with its water and wastewater systems. It was a very unique approach to solve the problem of operational and financial issues plaguing them. With the partnership, they are able to solve the problem of dealing with the repairs and maintenance of their aging water system. Many other state agencies have looked into public private partnerships, but none have been so successful and gotten so much stage agency support like Bayonne, NJ.
The Need for New Buried Infrastructure is Reaching Critical Mass
The Center for an Urban Future released a report in 2014 estimating New York City needed more than $47.3 billion just to bring existing infrastructure up to a state of good repair. Much of New York City’s piping is not only deteriorating but also built with outdated technology which makes the pipes more prone to leaks and makes them harder to repair. The report states that the City’s water system is in such disrepair that 24% of the water that runs through its pipes never makes it to consumers, far more the industry average range of 10 to 15% loss for a large municipal water system.
Every day in Washington, D.C. alone, there is a water or sewer pipe break, on average according to The New York Times. The City of Berkeley in California reports sewers range in age from 30 to 100 years with an average age of 50 years. New York City has over 1,000 miles of water mains over 100 years old. Using Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center, we see New York is working to rectify their aging infrastructure problems by planning over 150 future projects related to their buried infrastructure shortfalls.
Mother Nature doesn’t help weakened infrastructure either. Increases in natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes threaten to weaken already fragile infrastructure, potentially flooding roads and cutting off electricity to those in need at times of emergency.
Officials Actively Talking About How to Address Deteriorating Buried Infrastructure
State and local officials are always budgeting money to repairing buried infrastructure, but usually it is not enough. They also sometimes lack support from other government officials. Here are a few examples of government officials actively engaging the public in the discussion on social media:
Houston Mayor Annise Parker:
#Houston's challenges:population growth, aging infrastructure, punishing pension obligations. What major city doesn't have these challenges?
— Annise Parker (@AnniseParker) April 16, 2015
Congressman Rep. John Delaney:
This week I sent a report to House leaders on the impact aging infrastructure is having on Marylanders http://t.co/ffRUXsx74y
— Rep. John Delaney (@RepJohnDelaney) May 22, 2015
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio:
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) May 13, 2015
Complete Replacement Isn’t the Only Option
Trenchless rehabilitation is an alternative less invasive method to restore existing underground pipelines. It focuses on pipe and sewer repair work requiring minimal digging and no continuous trenches. One common trenchless rehabilitation method is known as sliplining. During the sliplining process, a new liner of smaller diameter pipe is placed inside the existing pipe to restore structural integrity to the damaged pipe. It’s a more cost effective way to restore pipes instead of completely digging them up. In 2014, the State of Michigan put out to bid 310 projects related to sliplining, the most of any state.
Here are the top 10 states who issued sliplining bids & RFPs in 2014:
|State Name||Issued Sliplining Bids & RFPs in 2014|
Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center reveals sliplining projects mentioned in 42 state and local government budgets for 2015, and 26 already include sliplining as part of their 2016 plans. Spending Forecast Center shows for 2015 and 2016, over 1300 infrastructure repair/enhancement project previews, and over 2,600 opportunities mentioned in budgets show up in the search results for 2016. State agencies are realizing the need to put serious money into repairs and maintenance of their infrastructure.
To get more information about how Onvia’s business intelligence tools can help infrastructure vendors find state and local government opportunities, contact Curtis Kingrey who will be walking the show floor at the ACE/AWWA show. To set up a time to meet with Curtis, he can be easily reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. With so much changing in the world of water and infrastructure repair, it’s bound to be an eye-opening and educational show. See you there!