Aging Water Pipes In Need Of Repair And Renewal

Old wooden pipes and failing water mains highlight the infrastructural water challenges facing many communities.
April 21, 2009, 2pm PDT | Nate Berg
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"Its wooden planks are lashed together with a coil of metal as if each section of pipe were a long, narrow barrel. And while the small stretch beneath the ground here may seem more Swiss Family Robinson than 21st century, it is not unique to Chelan.

Water officials say they believe that a handful of wooden water mains are still in use in South Dakota, Alaska and Pennsylvania, among other places. The old wood pipes offer a vivid reminder of the age and fragility of the nation's drinking water systems, many of which rely heavily on old pipes that often remain out of sight and mind - until they burst.

And they are bursting with alarming frequency in many areas these days, particularly in systems coping with septuagenarian, octogenarian, and even century-old pipes. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks each year in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Aging Water Infrastructure Research Program, and some water experts fear that the problem is getting worse."

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Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 in The New York Times
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