Document Type



Utah State University

Publication Date



Modern societies base their economic prosperity on a standard of living which includes a complex network of infrastructure, both above and below ground. Quality drinking water brought to the tap through elaborate underground distribution systems is a critical component to our public health and economic well-being. In the USA and Canada, it has been the hallmark of our industry and cooperation.


Our water infrastructure is now in decline after decades of service. The signs of distress surface daily as water mains break, creating floods and sink holes. The loss of water service is more than an inconvenience, since it causes significant social and economic disruptions and jeopardizes public health.


One factor used to quantify the occurrences of failing underground pipe networks is water main break rates. Water main break rates are calculated for all pipe materials used in the transport of water to create a measurement to judge pipe performance and durability. Water main break rates can vary year to year and by utility. However, in aggregate, break rates produce a compelling story which can aid our prudent decision making as it relates to repairing and replacing our underground pipes.


This Comprehensive Water Main Break Rate Study for the USA and Canada compiles the collective experience of 188 utilities which can be used for making future critical pipe replacement decisions. It is the desire of the researchers and participants to offer data and analysis that utility managers and elected officials can apply to the circumstances of their own operations. Highlights of the Comprehensive Water Main Break Study include a new national metric for citizens served per one mile of pipe, aggregate data on pipe material break rates, analysis of age and corrosion in failure modes, and related observations on pressure, temperature and trenchless technology practices.