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New study recommends PVC pipes as answer for cost effective water infrastructure upgrades

A new report just out in the US, titled Fixing America's Crumbling Underground Water Infrastructure: Competitive Bidding Offers a Way Out, has detailed the major issues facing the US with an aging underground water infrastructure and shows how cities that have embraced the use of PVC Pipes have benefited.


The report, published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group that studies the intersection of regulation, risk and markets was authored by Bonner Cohen, Ph,D., Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.


While detailing how increased competition would help reduce the costs associated with upgrading the nation's deteriorating water supply and wastewater infrastructure, the report also finds that cities that have expanded competition to include PVC pipes in the tender process have benefited as PVC pipe is about 70 percent cheaper to use and less labor-intensivethan ductile iron pipe.


Below is an excerpt from Competitive Enterprise Institute accompanying the release of the report – and while the sheer figures in the US are far greater than here in the US, this is a problem that is now starting to impact the Australian market and the cost to Australia will be in the billions if not managed effectively.


Water main breaks and leaking water supply pipes cost American taxpayers billions of dollars every year in lost water and repair costs. Necessary upgrades promise to place additional stresses on taxpayers long into the future. "Building and replacing water and sewage lines alone will cost some $660 billion to $1.1 trillion," over the next 20 years, notes Cohen.


The task at hand, he says, is to find the "most efficient and cost-effective" solutions. "Inserting some market discipline into the process would go a long way toward achieving that goal," Cohen continues.


Yet, current government contracting policies prevent many local governments from employing some of the most affordable and effective technologies available. For example, many do not allow use of PVC pipe, favoring older pipe technologies, even though PVC is affordable, inert, and does not corrode like metal materials. Some localities follow such rules simply because of what Cohen calls "bureaucratic inertia": failure to update procurement policies to address the development of new technologies.


"Given the degree of deterioration plaguing our underground water networks, and the severe financial constraints facing local governments, continuing outdated procurement practices is a prescription for disaster," Cohen points out.

View the full report here.

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