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Saving every drop – water pipe replacement


Between 25-30% of the water distributed globally by utility companies never reaches a single customer. Leakage from old pipes and loosened fittings is mostly to blame. Upgrading aging galvanized steel, lead or plastic water pipes can dramatically reduce water leakage, particularly in the service pipe connecting the water main to a property, where some 95% of leaks are typically found.

Replacing old pipes is the obvious solution, but with what? To provide hygienic drinking water over a long service life, pipes must be manufactured from a material offering several distinct advantages over the steel, lead and plastic versions they are replacing. Type 316L molybdenum-containing stainless steel is an ideal replacement material for such older pipes.

A leaking service water pipe in Tokyo

Corrugated stainless steel piping dispenses with the numerous elbows and fittings needed in traditional pipes to connect the water main to the meter. These joints are vulnerable to the aging of gaskets, earth movement, seismic events and vibration from traffic, all of which can cause them to leak over time. Using corrugated stainless steel piping has been shown to reduce the potential for leaking by 75-80%.

Molybdenum-containing corrugated stainless steel piping will last for 100 years or more without replacement or repair. It is strong and ductile and is designed to ‘bend before breaking’ to withstand pressure from the surrounding soil and the weight of heavy trucks passing on the street above.

Stainless steel is essentially inert in water, with negligible leaching of alloying components and therefore not affecting the quality of drinking water. It also provides greater resistance to corrosion and aging from treatment chemicals in the water and from the surrounding soil. It is 100% recyclable, further reducing environmental impact and enabling a proportion of the original cost to be recovered at the end of service life.  Mass pipe replacement programs have been shown to be extremely effective in reducing leaks and repairs, in one example reducing the loss of water from more than 15% to just over 2%.

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