Lux Executive Summit Takeaways: The Pipe Replacement Era

May 10, 2010 at 5:30 pm 4 comments

We’re a little late to blog on Amir’s participation in the Lux Executive Summit, April 25-27. Lux research has been covering what they call the “Hydrocosm” for some time, looking at the various technologies that fit in and around the management of the entire water value chain – from water production, to distribution and eventually treatment and re-use. As the hydrocosm evolves, many approaches will come of age.

Heather Landis, a Lux Analyst, gave a great presentation titled “Water State of the Market: Uncovering Opportunities in the Hydrocosm”. Heather’s coverage area, Water Intelligence, looks at the water market from a treatment perspective and from an efficiency perspective: the two can be combined, creating another category she calls “treatment/efficiency”. The treatment perspective covers many physical changes to the way water is produced and treated: anything from membranes to desalination techniques. The efficiency side is where water infrastructure monitoring fits in – using the data generated by the water network to manage it better and reduce water loss, while increasing the efficiency of the network as a whole. Efficiency also includes physical elements: such as pipe rehabilitation or additional sensors.

What we liked about Heather’s discussion of the water networks is the tie-in with the historical understanding of the evolution of water networks. She began with the “great sanitary awakening” that brought on the creation of piped infrastructure, spoke about the evolution from private water networks to public ones, and then went on to discuss how the water network is driven by regulatory forces.

One of the most interesting points made was that we are now reaching into the pipe replacement era. Pipes installed in 1890 with a 120 year life are due to be replaced in 2010. 1920’s pipes are expected to “live” for 100 years, bringing their replacement date close too. Ageing infrastructure means that the “repair bill’ is due. See what the EPA says about this:

Drinking water treatment plants, sewer lines, drinking water distribution lines, and storage facilities ensure protection of public health and the environment. As a nation, we have built this extensive network of infrastructure to provide the public with access to water and sanitation. Much of the drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in the US was built 30 years following World War II, mirroring the increase in population.
We cannot ignore the arriving wave of infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement we will face over the next several decades. To do so would put the achievements of the last 30-40 years and our nation’s waters and public health at risk.

Amir PelegWhat all this means is that the “efficiency” side of the hydrocosm has overtime work cut out for it: water infrastructure monitoring needs to help utilities control aging infrastructure, plan maintenance and prioritize repairs so that investment is done wisely, efficeintly, and without losing a lot of water.

We look forward to see Lux’s evolving views of the market in the future.

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