THE DISINTEGRATION OF U.S. INFRASTRUCTURE: Quarter Million Water Main Breaks A Year

The United States is sitting on top of a massive amount of aging infrastructure that continues to disintegrate at an alarming rate.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. suffers from 240,000 water main breaks a year.  That’s roughly 700 water main breaks each day.

Some of these water main breaks can be quite large.  Here is a picture of water main break that took place on Howard Street in Baltimore.

large-water-main-break

Furthermore, according to the the Water Main Break Clock, it costs approximately $3 billion a year just to repair the water main breaks in North America (USA & Canada).  In addition, a congressional study estimated that water pipe corrosion in the United States costs $50.7 billion annually.  Since 2000, the total U.S. water paper corrosion cost is a staggering $674 billion.

To replace all the water pipes in the U.S. would cost over $1 trillion.  Moreover, experts estimate water main breaks and leaking pipes waste 1.7 trillion gallons of water in the country a year.

Here’s an old picture of a water distribution main being constructed in Philadelphia in 1946.  These older iron pipes have a life expectancy of 75-100 years:

philidelphia-water-main

(courtesy of PhiliH20.org)

However, corrosion can cause iron pipes to fail before their full lifespan.  I did some research and the average lifespan of a iron pipe water main in Boston, was 83 years.  This water main shown above is now 70 years old.

A comprehensive study done in 2012 called, Water Main Break Rates in USA & Canada provided the following data on the aging water infrastructure in North America:

assessemt-of-pipe-condition-1980-2000

The study reported that 68% of the water pipes in the U.S. in 1980 were in excellent condition, while only 5% were poor and very poor.  Twenty years later, the pipes in excellent condition fell to 42% while those in poor and very poor condition increased to 16%.

Unfortunately, ten years later… the U.S. water infrastructure has disintegrated considerably:

assessemt-of-pipe-condition-2010

The water pipes that are in excellent condition have fallen to 32%, down from 42% just ten years ago.  However, U.S. pipes that are in poor and very poor condition have jumped up to 36%.  What a change in 30 years.  In 1980, the condition of U.S. water pipes in poor and very poor shape was only 5% and now it’s 36%.  And, we must remember, this was based on data for 2010.  I would imagine that poor and very poor condition has increased closer to 40% now.

The continued disintegration of the U.S. water infrastructure is due to the Falling EROI- Energy Returned On Investment.  Of course it is true that Local, State and Federal Governments are funneling a lot of tax payer money to corrupt institutions, highly paid retried pensioners and to pay debt or interest on debt.

However, the Falling EROI of U.S. oil is not allowing enough profitable barrels of oil to maintain our infrastructure.  I believe the aging U.S. infrastructure will continue to rot, especially when the next financial and economic collapse occurs.  There just won’t be the available surplus funds to replace or repair all this massive aging infrastructure:

complex-us-infrastructure

(courtesy of Civil Engineering News)

This is a picture of the underground infrastructure on Route 9 by the World Trade Center in New York.  As we can see, the massive complex older infrastructure has to be dealt with extreme caution.  Just think about the miles of water pipes, sewer, electric lines and etc, just underneath New York City.

Americans need to understand the huge problem growing beneath the surface.  Again, U.S. infrastructure will continue to disintegrate and become increasingly unreliable in the future.

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32 Comments on "THE DISINTEGRATION OF U.S. INFRASTRUCTURE: Quarter Million Water Main Breaks A Year"

  1. Steve,

    Fascinating article. When you hear failing infrastructure, most people think roads and bridges. Interestingly, the elementary school that my daughters attended 5 blocks from my house suffered a catastrophic water main failure in August forcing the school board to rent a vacant school in neighboring city to the tune of $18,000 per month.

    Just another nail in the coffin of our maldeveloped civilization.

    SteveW

  2. Maybe one can get an education as an electrician. Those skills will come in handy when the whole world looks like a third world country.

    http://www.agpix.com/catalog/AGPix_Cardozo/large/AGPix_Cardozo_1605_Lg.jpg

    • houtskool,

      While the U.S. doesn’t have that sort of electric grid problem, shown in that picture, we have one hell of a lot more infrastructure that needs constant maintenance and upgrading.

      Unfortunately, our massive suburban infrastructure sprawl is a system that is not sustainable. The day the United States started to expand its infrastructure across the continent, it was sowing the seeds of its demise.

      I believe we are going to see Detroit City type of abandonment across a large percentage of major U.S. Cities.

      steve

      • Steve,

        Detroit has huge swaths of land that are reverting to agricultural uses. A major mortgage company has purchased 400 acres in Detroit and turning it into orchards.

        A sign of things to come.

        SteveW

        • SteveW,

          Detroit will be a COOKIE CUTTER for the rest of United States going forward. While there has been a small YUPPIE RENAISSANCE in Detroit over the past few years, this will not last. Look for Detroit to continue disintegrating when the U.S. falls into the Last Great Depression.

          steve

          • Steve,

            You may be right, but the ingredients of a renaissance all seem to be present. Local farm to table agriculture is evolving. Very short distance and very low energy costs, from farm to market. It is representative of how markets will have to function when the big credit collapse comes.

            Detroit has already experienced the massive collapse.and, unlike all the big cities to follow, we still have an ERO(E)I of over 20/1. It is a microcosm of how future markets might actually work.

            SteveW

          • SteveW,

            What leads you to believe we have an EROI of 20/1 currently? According to the Hills Group, our EROI is really falling. From what they are saying its likely below 10/1 right now. All that can do is maintain the roads, bridges, have transportation vehicles and agriculture… that’s it.

            steve

          • Steve,

            The 20/1 was the impression I left Arnoux’s and the Hill Group articles with. I believe that was the effective rate as subsidized by excessive, never to be repaid debt.

            If it is already down to 10/1 then we are that much closer to the collapse. However, I still believe that the collapse will come from a credit crises and recovery will blocked by the EROI of oil, especially in light of the destroyed delivery systems.

            SteveW

          • Good article and TED video. Some valuable lessons there. Interesting that they still only manage to produce 50% of the country’s vegetables. Wonder if that is because they have no pesticides.

            SteveW

  3. We don’t want those people moving out here in the country where we have private infrastructure.Serves those bureaucrats right if they get backlash. Lol. Lot of liberals in those cities.

    • Edward B. Irvin,

      LOL… couldn’t agree more. I live in a small ranching community out west. Our local government just replaced all the water lines, even the old smaller connection lines to the homes. We had our main highway repaved and the continue to upgrade the electric grid. We are lucky that a large portion of our electric generation comes from hydro-electric.

      Americans who want EVERYTHING that the BIG CITY offers will also get all of the huge DOWNSIDE when the collapse occurs. The North East and older Midwest, such as Chicago, St Louis and etc will be in big trouble as the infrastructure continues to decay without any hope of major repairs or upgrades in the future.

      steve

  4. Yep I grew up on a small dairy farm and still have some of the land. We can survive if it all collapses. Seems so many bad things on the horizon. Maybe China and Iran will donate the trillion dollars to fix the water pipes.Being that Obama and Clinton in bed with them.

    • Rothschild Global Takeover | September 21, 2016 at 12:44 am | Reply

      What… Obama and Clinton in bed with Iran? Are you kidding me… they want to bomb the **** out of it, especially Clinton, because Iran is one of the few nations in the world which does not yet have a Rothschild controlled central bank (among other reasons). Research it.

      As for China, that is a greater possibility but I still think it’s not quite that way. It’s murkier, but I would hardly call them bed buddies either.

  5. I don’t think your article could have been timed better.

    The Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Houston to New York, began leaking on September 9, spilling 250,000 gallons of gasoline, or 6,000 barrels. The pipeline was built in 1962, and the current leak in Helena, Alabama, is the largest one Colonial Pipeline has experienced in 20 years, Reuters noted

    “Why East Coast Pipelines are about to Explode”
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-09-16/why-east-coast-gas-prices-are-about-explode

    • petedivine,

      Yes, I saw that. What a mess we are in. If we really understood the massive cost to maintain, repair and replace just our infrastructure, maybe we would have considered NOT BUILDING SO DAMN MUCH OF IT… LOL.

      And here’s the real seriousness of it all. The oldest infrastructure (pipes, sewage and etc) were built 50-100+ years ago which are the major inner cities. As the Suburbs grew around the big cities and now are 10-30 miles away from the Big Cities, all connecting new infrastructure is built into the OLDER.. LOL. What a complete mess.

      Of course not all of it is built or tied into the older infrastructure, but a lot of it is.

      steve

  6. 12:35] Leserzuschrift-CH: Inhalt eines mittlerweile entfernten Jim Willie-Videos:

    Ich bin mir bewusst, dass nicht alle den Jim Willie mögen. Mit seinen markanten Aussagen und dem augenscheinlich grossen Netzwerk bis in die Spitzen der Gesellschaft hinein, ist er für mich persönlich allerdings zum absoluten „must listen” geworden. In seinem letzten Interview, das er gab machte er Aussagen, dass einem das Blut in den Adern gefriert. Für diejenigen, die keine Zeit zum reinhören haben, hier eine kurze, nicht chronologische, Zusammenfassung:

    – China wollte bereits im März 2016 die Gold gedeckte Währung einführen, worauf die USA mit Krieg gedroht hätten. Die Chinesen hätten sich dazu entschieden, bis zum Herbst 2016 hin die Füsse still zu halten, denn der USD würde bis dahin eh kollabieren.

    – Die dynastischen Familien in China (white dragons) halten privat ca. 110’000 Tonnen Gold. Die Chinesische Notenbank, zusammen mit der AIIB und der neuen Settlementstelle für Transaktionen ca. 20-25’000 Tonnen Gold und die grossen Industriekonzerne nochmals etwa 20’000 Tonnen Gold.

    – Bei der Russischen Zentralbank rechnet er mit ca. 25’000 Tonnen Gold.

    – Die USA haben kein Gold mehr, dieses wurde von Bush „9/11″gestohlen.

    – Zar Romanow hatte das Staatsgold (10-15’000 Tonnen), kurz vor Ausbruch des WK I, in die Hände der westlichen Notenbanken gegeben. Dieses wurde nie mehr retourniert.

    – Der Steuerskandal gegen die Schweizer Banken diente nur dazu diese zu erpressen, damit CS und UBS das Gold der Saudis den Amerikanern aushändigten. Die Saudis kaufen nun Gold gegen US-Treasuries (stilles Abkommen mit den USA).

    – Niemand kauft mehr US-Treasuries, ausser den Vasallen aus Europa, Japan und natürlich der Fed selbst.

    I try to translate.An article from Jim Willie from hartgeld.com.The video is dvanished.

    China wanted to introduce a a gold covered currency in March 2016.
    The USA threaten the chinese with a war when they try do do that.
    The chinese agreed and answered that the dollar anyway will collapse in autumn 2016.

    Chinese Families(white dragons) hold 110 000 tons of gold.
    The chinese Bank and AIIB hold together ca. 20 000 tons and big corporations ca. 20 000 tons.

    The russian central banks hold 25000 tons.

    The USA has no physical gold anymore.

    The tax scandal against sitzerland was made that CS and USB the gold from the Saudi to the USA.The saudies buy nowadays gold agin US-treasuries.
    It’s a secret between the saudies and the USA.

    Nobody buys US- treasuries without europe and japane and the Fed himself.

    A lot of traffic jam at the harbors of the USA.The USA try to pay with US-treasuries but the seller don’t accept ist.The deletion of the ships
    is delayed.

    At the beginning of June the USA had 7 or 8 financial losses each of them about 30 Billion dollars.
    Over night the FED had to intervenie because of that.

    The BIZ had to transmit 21 tons of gold to the comex because of a physical short squeeze.

    The Biz and the FED don’t want to stuff anymore all those holes.

    Jim Willie talks about 50-100 Bill. dollars supported fromt the FED to the Investment banks to keep the system running.

    Jim Willie says that the financial system is collapsing at latest in 2017.

    Sounds like as the absolute horror story.What about the credibility from him?

    • I was a subscriber of JW newsletters. With all respect, JW is takes knowledge from other sources and includes some of its ingredients, which are mostly pure Bullshit. He is almost never right, speaks just fairytales and has basically no clue. Look at the official forecasts he did. Over the past few years he didnt include anything new. When he started to write about aliens I finally realized, that Its pure loss of money. But if you believe him, good luck.

  7. Most of the articlesare “doom and Gloom” which is a scenario that 99% of the USA, who doesn’t hold
    any precious metals will riot, loot and pillage every business. Where am I to spend my silver? Where
    can I go to with silver in my pocket? Wouldn’t the scenario be more like Mexico 30 years ago, or
    Greece or better yet like Argentina today? In 2010 it was 3.97 pesos to the dollar. Their currency has
    devalued so that in 2016 you need 15 Pesos for a dollar. Imagine being a “stacker” in Argentina verses a guy who saved ” cash “? The cash Argentinians had is now depreciated 75% but since silver is a storage of value it is in great shape. Imagine buying silver in 2010 for 80 Pesos and today selling it for 300 Pesos. Imagine further since inflation is 10% per month, where silver value will be in another year? Isn’t this the more likely scenario for USA citizenry in a monetary ” collapse?”

  8. Not to worry folks!! Everything is going to work itself out for the better. Do as you will. Be happy. Buy some physical silver and gold as your budget allows. Remember that there is absolutely nothing you can do to make this world a better place live for the multitudes. Most of the leaders in this world want the ordinary person to be their slaves. The elites in the USA. Like your president, your congress, the millionaires and the billionaires. They are simply a pack of evil people sitting in power over the masses. They do nothing to save our country. Just amass riches for themselves!! When you realize that there is nothing you can do about it, you can possibly just accept it for what it is and be as happy as is possible. You will live until you die so relax and enjoy it. A vote for Trump can slow up the inevitable. But really will not change the end result. Buy PM’s

  9. Most negative articles written about infrastructure with China in mind, chide the Chinese on their massive spending and building of modern infrastructure. Using equally massive amounts of debt. Such as complete cities, high speed rail, airports, harbors, hydro electric, telecommunications, etc. And the list goes on.

    North American infrastructure is as Steve’s article – in one word? Sad. Yet we have equal amounts of massive debt, if not more than China! When the “big crunch” does come, who will be better off?

  10. Good then, that China has a lot of cheap steel to unload. Even farm country needs infrastructure. EBI touches on the solution, other energy sources than expensive oil. Why can’t more people live on the farm while science keeps on creating wonders?

  11. A punishment from 14 Milliarden for dt. Bank.Some think it’s the answer for the the apple tax-payment that demandet the EU.

    As a german i say it’s correct.This Bank was involved in each scandal you can ever imagine.On the other hand the government is not consequent in closing the tax loopholes in the USA.

    But the same in Europe.Only when the politician stop the new world order( i mean all power to some big players) this downwards spirale will find an end.I hope that the US-government pulls it through.

    At the moment we go direct in stagflation modus.Increading prices and more unemployment(recession).

  12. Right silverfreaky, the US is just pathetic trying to protect rule breaker Apple. Trying to distract people from the stagflation with this kind of sensationalism, pathetic!

  13. Brilliant as always. Ten years ago, I bought into a complex of condos built in 1980. The tight arse developer put in thinner than usual copper pipe for the underground mains reticulation system. The plumber, who I got to know as he was constantly fixing the burst pipes, told me of this. I sold out immediately. Now 4 years later, they are replacing all the mains pressure pipework for a cool $1 mil ($40k per property…. a time compressed microcosm of the whole of the US.

    • steve,

      Thanks for sharing that. That is a perfect example of the MASSIVE PROBLEM facing our infrastructure today. Can you imagine the cost, energy and effort to fix just the water system?

      steve

  14. Oh, and I used to manage a 50 year old process plant. I can tell you, sweating the assets by doing breakdown maintenance, always would give you a short term bonus on your budget savings. Suffer thy successor (next generation).

  15. We moved from a small older rural community with water pipe leaks becoming more frequent. Rather than address the problem with lasting repairs/replacements, the political leaders saw to it the perfectly good and serviceable roads were repaved, some twice in a single year. Good looking roads could be seen by the voters, while repairs to water delivery systems were not only not visible, the repairs caused traffic delays and temporary reroutes that upset voters.

  16. SR: I have a retired Black Ops scientist friend that has told me why the federal government and the states are not fixing the infrastructure. It actually pretty simple if you believe and know what is coming soon to planet earth? This may seem really strange- but true!
    Nibiru (planet X) is heading our way- it is real and will change earth forever. My friend “W” worked on UFO’s etc when in the black ops programs. He still has friends in NASA that inform him of Nibiru’s coming. There is nothing we can do about this. But the governments have known about this for decades(since 1982). They know it will be a big waste of money to do these projects and have them torn apart by Nibiru’s forces as it passes earth.
    I have more input on this event, but that tells you why they will not fix the infrastructure.

  17. Large cities were built on manufacturing and trade. Those industries were exchanged to third world countries as part of the new world order of globalism and socialism. How can you rebuild anything
    with that mindset?

  18. SRS – very good article. This is the true off-balance sheet liability I think and have for 30 years now. Short story from my old hometown, Detroit. I learned from a man in the water and sewer matrix that many of the older water pipes are sealed in a fashion that require positive water pressure to keep outside material such as sewage bacteria out of them. I think they used some kind of rosin-fiber combo and pounded it into the joints. Sewage lines often run along water lines. You can see the problem. It’s probably the main reason that Detroit spent $50 million on large diesel generators at their water pumping stations just prior to Y2K. Thirteen of them if I’m not mistaken. One of them had a emission stack that required FAA clearance. The City had called Detroit Edison and asked if they could guarantee power on the date turnover. Edison said no. Thus, back-up generators. From what I hear these generators haven’t been maintained very well. One of the reasons that water pipes will break is that when a certain low pressure is read, signalling loss of positive pressure somewhere in the line, there is often an over reaction at pumping stations. These over reactions can cause a spike in pressure as they try to compensate. That spike can blow chunks out of the old pipes.

    Look forward to following your articles on the subject. Sounds like a great community you’re in. It’s going to be a strange few decades to come. Best to be around rational people who know how to manage things appropriately.

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