Ductile Iron Pipe

Ductile Iron PipeThis might sound like a clich? but it happens to be very true: no one notices water infrastructure when it?s working. Buried neatly beneath the ground, these networks of pipes supply our homes and businesses with the vital clean water that life requires. Member companies of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) are manufacturers of durable, environmentally responsible ductile iron pipe, and the organization takes pride in pipe that has quietly gone about its business for a century or more.

But people must start taking notice of this process ? as so much is at stake. Local water authorities? decisions to expand and repair their water systems require public knowledge and engagement. To assist in this matter, DIPRA conducted a usage study to help understand how experts with years of experience in the field really feel about different choices in pipe materials. We also wanted to determine how DIPRA and its member companies? products and services are viewed within the water industry so that we can serve this community in the best manner possible.

The study, conducted in March and April of this year, drew more than 2,000 responses from long-time industry experts in every state in the nation ? with 61 percent of those having more than two decades of experience. This study is an elaborate collection of the water community?s knowledge, expertise and field-borne wisdom.

Ductile Iron Pipe InstallationAccording to the survey, ductile iron pipe, manufactured by DIPRA member companies, is relied on for its strength, resistance to damage and high-pressure loads, and its unmatched durability and reliability. Ductile iron is proven, inexpensive to operate compared to other pipe materials, is environmentally sustainable, and over the long term, is more cost effective as water flows more efficiently through it, saving up to 38 percent in energy consumption over the lifespan of the pipe.

With nothing less than our national water infrastructure at stake ? according to the American Water Works Association?s ?Buried No Longer? study, at least $1 trillion is needed for projects on the horizon ? it?s imperative that the water industry makes the right decision with the best information possible from expert organizations like DIPRA.

We went into this study with clear objectives ? to understand the industry?s perspective on ductile iron pipe as a choice for pipe, especially versus alternative pipe materials; and to obtain key measures for DIPRA?s performance. Here?s what we found:

Survey respondents indicated that ductile iron pipe?s longevity is a key factor for choosing iron pipe.The usage study determined that ductile iron pipe?s top five surveyed advantages in order of preference are:

Strength
Overall long-term reliability
Longevity
Performance
Life cycle costs

The Survey
It?s a fact that ductile iron pipe?s lifespan can exceed 100 years, and its installation and maintenance is uncomplicated.

Not terribly surprising, considering the demographics of our industry, approximately 94 percent of respondents in this unprecedented usage survey were male and nearly 70 percent were 45 years of age or older. More than half had a bachelor?s degree and a quarter had a graduate degree. Respondents came from every state in the country ? with five percent of the respondents living and working in Canada.

The survey found that ductile iron pipe also enjoyed core advantages in applications that require strength, durability and for not affecting transmitted water quality. Regardless of the diameter, it has installation advantages for being less sensitive to installation practices (including varying operator capabilities and bedding requirements). Once laid, ductile iron pipe is viewed as being more resistant to damage from future excavations by others.

Ductile iron pipe is perceived to have a longer expected service life than PVC. For example, one-in-five respondents suggested PVC?s service life was approximately 25 years. By comparison, more than one-third of all respondents viewed ductile iron pipe as lasting a century or more ? with more than 70 percent indicating that ductile iron pipe?s service life is at least 75 years or more.

Corrosion & Longevity
Corrosion is an issue that competitors try to use when comparing and contrasting pipe materials ? even though polyethylene encasement has been a proven method of corrosion control since the 1950s. DIPRA recently launched an enhanced version of polyethylene encasement that protects iron pipe in the most aggressive soils. This product, called V-Bio, is a biocide and a corrosion inhibitor fused into one co-extruded linear low-density polyethylene film. The survey respondents indicated that ductile iron pipe?s longevity is a key factor for choosing iron pipe, and this product will help ensure that iron pipe will last even longer.

When considering pipe materials that are meant to last 100 years or more, taking into account only immediate costs can be very expensive to future generations. Pipe materials are not interchangeable and are not equal ? they have very different service lives, strengths, operating costs, environmental considerations, health factors, safety concerns and maintenance issues. Communities base their decisions on what kind of pipe to select on many factors and on their past experiences with various materials.

The recycled and natural materials, the cutting edge processes and the dedication to safety are what makes pipe made by DIPRA-member companies the wisest choice for utilities and communities ? not to mention the ?SMaRT? choice. Unlike most pipe materials on the market, ductile iron pipe made by DIPRA member companies is SMaRT certified ? meaning it has been independently rated by the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability as sustainable across its lifecycle and is better for the environment.

In the section of the survey reserved for open-ended comments and suggestions, respondents were invited to speak openly on pipe materials. One theme kept popping up: the appreciation those in the field have for DIPRA?s support and informational materials and the need to continue having free and in-depth resources available to them. Survey respondents also viewed DIPRA as an organization that is ?knowledgeable,? ?technically competent,? a ?leader in research,? and a ?valuable resource.?

As the new president of DIPRA, I am proud to be at the helm of this venerable organization ? one that has served the water industry since 1915 when it was called the Cast Iron Pipe Publicity Bureau. While our pipe offerings may have changed, our dedication to serving this community has not.

DIPRA is building on its trusted and rich legacy by continuing to offer new products and services, and by making sure that we continue to meet the needs of engineers and utilities. The organization has recently completed an informative webinar that takes viewers through the eminent history of cast iron and ductile iron pipe. We?re constantly updating and revising our publications to ensure that we present the most accurate information, and will soon launch brand new educational and training materials. Our regional engineers are always on hand to answer questions or inform water professionals about the latest developments. We?ve recently expanded this concept by creating The Virtual Engineer page on our website ? a dedicated space for engineers and utilities to contact us with any questions or comments and expect to receive a timely, informative response.

Iron pipe has stood the test of time due to its strength and durability for life. From its inception nearly 100 years ago, DIPRA has been proud to provide?accurate, reliable and essential engineering information about our pipe to water utilities, engineers and local officials nationwide.

Jon R. Runge, CAE, is president of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA).

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