Document Type



Utah State University

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Deteriorating Infrastructure

Municipalities and the people they serve depend on pipe networks that provide safe drinking water. This piping is underground, out of sight, and often neglected.

Overall assessment of water infrastructure condition is not good. Using the US as an example:

  • In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued a US report card and gave a D- to drinking water infrastructure.
  • In 2017, the grade improved to a D.
  • In 2021, the grade was raised to a C-, better but still not good.
  • Utilities are currently losing 11% of their water to leakage.
  • Pipe life estimates of 75 to 100 years contrast with an average replacement schedule of about 200 years (ASCE, 2017).

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has also reported on water main replacements in the US. In the annual AWWA State of the Water Industry Report, renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure was listed as the top concern (AWWA, 2017). This has remained a primary issue for utilities nationwide for the last five years (AWWA, 2023).

Deteriorating water mains are threats to the physical integrity of distribution systems, causing adverse effects on flow capacity, system pressure, and water quality (Grigg, et al., 2017). In addition to maintenance requirements and economic impacts, consequences of a broken water main include local flooding, interruption of water delivery, and damage to roads and private property. These outcomes also negatively affect a utility's customer satisfaction.

Utility data clearly indicate that the integrity of water pipelines in the US and Canada continues to deteriorate as the infrastructure ages. Among the many indicators of aging pipes, break rates are the most significant.