When it comes to municipalities, they try to do what’s in the best interest of its residents while also making sure it’s in the best interest of the city and lessening risk. It can range from tax breaks and school rezoning to real estate development and infrastructure repairs. Planning ahead on for these items as best as possible can save a lot of time and money, which is the case in Kansas City with its aging water mains.
City officials have devised a plan to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to handling the aging water main systems throughout the city. In 2012, the city suffered more than 1,800 water main breaks with an average of five per day. A good number of these have to do with the Kansas City clay soil. Clay soil swells and shrinks during extreme weather and record-breaking heat that year in Kansas City is believed to have been a contributing factor to the record number of breaks.
The city had to do something to lower the number of breaks. Because of this significantly high number of breaks, a local water service company rolled out a water main replacement program. Within five years of rolling out the replacement program, there had been a huge reduction in breaks. The company developed a forecasting method that included their entire 2,800 miles of in-ground pipe, essentially a model that helps them define where all the pipes are, which ones were at the greatest risk, and where they can save the most dollars by replacing the riskiest sections before anything happens. They have made a commitment to replace one percent of the lines annually. As a result of their efforts, the number of annual breaks has gone from over 1,800 down to 745 last year.
According to the city’s statistics, more than $108 million has been spent to date on the water main replacement program. The numbers also show a savings of more than $22 million in potential repairs as the work has enhanced the integrity of the system and the instances of water main breaks have gone down.
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