After Texas disaster, community and industry come together to transform water infrastructure

Dell Doyle, PhD

Posted 8 hours ago. About 5 minutes to read.

Image: Dow

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Disasters such as the aftermath of the February 2021 ice storm that left millions of Texans without running water have laid bare the urgent need for updated utility infrastructure across the United States. This would involve repairing and replacing hundreds of thousands of miles of water pipes – but what should be used instead?

The dangers of low-flow infrastructure in North America were clearly observed in February 2021, when a major ice storm and freezing temperatures caused a partial outage of the electricity and water supply networks in Texas. The storm claimed 210 lives; and millions of people were without power for days in freezing temperatures that burst water pipes, froze wells and shut down water treatment plants across the state. About 13 million Texans were told to boil water for safety after the storm; but the inhabitants of rural towns such as Aspermont, Carey and Northfield were left without running water after the aging metal and cast iron pipes burst.

When drinking water was cut off in these Texas towns,
Dow worked with local municipalities, businesses and associations such as the Plastic Pipe Institute (PPI),
Pipeline plastics, McElroy Manufacturing
and Modern scatters focus on the future by donating a more durable and sustainable piping solution to citizens in need. The 42,000 feet (equivalent to 116 football fields) of leak-resistant, corrosion-resistant high-density polyethylene (HDPE) PE4710 pipe used to replace parts of the transmission lines was produced by Pipeline Plastics using Dow’s CONTINUUM™ Bimodal Polyethylene Resins.

As the first anniversary of the Texas storm approaches and we head into the coldest months of the year, we reflect on the need to upgrade and rebuild the aging infrastructure that is crucial to avoiding future disasters like those -this.

Operate water networks

Image credit: Dow

Extreme weather events, like the now infamous winter storm that froze parts of Texas, forced us to consider the fragility and aging of our infrastructure in the face of dramatic temperature swings. the APE
estimates that 10 percent of homes in the United States have leaks that can waste 90 gallons or more of water per day. One November 2021 Houston Chronicle

history noted that the 311 Houston Helpline received approximately “25,660 reports of water leaks between January and October 2021. This figure was up from just over 19,000 in the same period last year”.

Many of these leaks were due to decades-old infrastructure made of materials such as steel, cast iron, ductile iron, copper, lead, asbestos cement and the reinforced concrete pipes now arriving. at the end of life. Originally intended to last 20 to 50+ years, these networks are unable to operate reliably under increasingly harsh conditions. What’s more, the American Civil Society of Engineers problems “Review of American infrastructureevery four years — and the 2021 GPA is a C-.

Prior to the storm, the only water supply line to the town of Aspermont was a 50-year-old eight-inch steel pipe system. 1,500 feet of the transmission line froze during the storm. Carey and Northfield had a 14-inch cast iron pipe from the 1930s, which suffered a catastrophic circular failure. Cases like these are seen across the United States, representing hundreds of thousands of miles of water pipes that need to be repaired and replaced – but what should be used instead?

The future of the water network

Image credit: Dow

Pipes made with CONTINUUM™ Bimodal Polyethylene Resins offer the longest life cycle of any drinking water pipe material, due to the durability of the resins, which means less maintenance and replacement. The partners received a 2021 Municipal Leadership Award of the Alliance for PE Pipe in the project’s “early adopter” category, which enabled local governments and Texas Red River Authority to restore reliable water service to these communities.

In the long term, these networks will provide a more sustainable water supply system, preventing approximately 3.5 million gallons of annual water loss from ruptures and leaks in the system for decades to come, and will require less maintenance. maintenance over their 100+ year design life. . Resistant to extreme weather events, HDPE pipe meets or exceeds all industry performance standards, providing the longest life cycle of any potable water pipe in virtually any climate.

CONTINUUM resins also create seamless, leak-resistant pipelines that can play an important role in water conservation efforts. By enabling the use of pipes that preserve water quality and prevent water loss, these pipes help keep communities safe and healthy.

Protecting our most precious resource

The “once-in-a-lifetime” storm that partially shut down Texas’ power and water systems may prove to be much more frequent than expected as the climate continues to change. To ensure that all citizens have access to the basic human necessity of clean water, it is imperative that we rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. We have the technology — and we’re implementing it.

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