Pipeline Restoration – Nonstop Water Delivery to Your Home

 In Infrastructure, Pipeline Rehabilitation, Resilient Water Systems, Water Service

Guest Blogger: Kristin Schwartz, Civil Engineer/Project Manager at City of Thornton, Colorado

When it comes to water, the average person turns on the faucet, starts the dishwasher, or fires up their sprinkler system, not thinking twice about HOW the water gets to their home. Yet we know there are curious customers, like you, who want to know more.

The water distribution system

The city’s water utility installs, operates, and maintains the complex water delivery system that serves our community: a total of 640 miles underground pipes that deliver clean, safe water from the drinking water treatment plant — directly to all our water customers. This requires a professional team of water experts to plan, anticipate challenges, respond to emergencies, and adopt new technologies.

Construction workers working on street

Why maintain pipes?

There are several reasons an underground water line might require repair or replacement. Often the original pipe material has reached the end of its life span. The aging cast iron pipe, which comprised much of the city’s original pipe infrastructure installed over 60 years ago, has been primarily replaced with PVC water lines. Corrosive soils and ground or surface water can also compromise a pipe, especially if it wasn’t treated or wrapped when installed. Joints and fittings are natural weak spots for all pipes that can often cause leaks or need repair. Investing in preventative maintenance of the distribution system is essential to avoid costly and disruptive water line breaks.

Exposed underground pipe covered in mud and rocks

To plan pipeline projects throughout the city, staff implement risk assessment tools; measuring specific criteria to direct decision making and prioritization. Some of the many considerations include:

  • Are there critical lines that are compromised that service hospitals, schools, or could disrupt a major highway?
  • What is the age and material of the pipe, and any proximity water that could lead to advanced corrosion?
  • Where has the city repaired past/previous pipelines and are there areas near those repairs that could be compromised?
  • How do we draw from our institutional knowledge and familiarity with the city’s infrastructure to help prioritize our work?

Putting a plan into action

Engineers develop a design for the rehabilitation or replacement of the pipes that are prioritized for maintenance. Field experts then mobilize the area, coordinate road closures, and complete the construction according to the design. It might surprise you to learn removing and replacing a pipe in the exact same location doesn’t happen very often! Instead, most designs use a pipe alignment that runs a new pipe adjacent to the existing, broken pipe. This also often allows existing water distribution operations to be maintained during construction. Once a water line is repaired, the line is flushed, and the water is tested for safety before it is delivered to water customers.

Map of Thornton water treatment facilities

Pipeline Rehabilitation in Thornton

The Yorkborough Pipeline Rehabilitation project along E. 98th Place and E. 98th Avenue is an example of a project to replace and upsize the deteriorated pipeline. Design and scheduling are completed and construction will begin in September 2022, with a total budget of $3,350,000. The end result will be a larger, 8-inch diameter PVC water line that will allow water to be delivered to customers more easily and reliably. As PVC has a useful life of 70 years or more, breaks along the line will effectively be eliminated for years to come, and minimize water interruptions to customers in the area. This replacement project will also provide brand new hydrants for customers along the alignment as well as new service connections to each home.

Water Breaks

Pipeline restoration and replacement projects are planned in advance to stay ahead of problems. But sometimes, we must respond quickly to water line breaks and other emergencies. It’s all part of our mission to deliver water to customers 24/7/365.

You can learn more about the city’s ongoing capital improvement projects here. We take pride in providing a reliable underground water delivery system that keeps our community thriving. Because…

Construction workers working on road
Without Water Life Would Be Pretty Dry graphic
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