In the United States and Canada, underground water infrastructure was installed during three main time periods because of population growth in the 1800s, 1900–1945, and post 1945. Pipes made of iron constructed in each of these three eras will all start to fail at nearly the same time over the next couple of decades due to the corrosion of the iron pipes. Additionally, the life span of the materials used since the 1960's has changed. Grey cast iron pipes are no longer manufactured and the new ductile iron material has been made thinner to reduce costs, but as a result, the pipe life expectancy has become shorter with each new investment cycle. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a USA Infrastructure Report Card and gave an overall "D" grade to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure which included the piping infrastructure.
The water industry has seen many types of academic surveys and studies on water main replacement programs and the benefits of asset management and prioritization. However, many utilities have not historically tracked all of the elements of pipe failure. As this trend changes, more data and analysis will be available to the industry to improve water distribution system repair and replacement decision making. This comprehensive study provides the next body of evidence supporting the ability of utilities to address the failing infrastructure and the affordability dilemma.
Folkman, Steven, "PVC Pipe Longevity Report: Affordability and the 100+ Year Benchmark Standard" (2014). Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Faculty Publications. Paper 170.