By Dr. Mark Knight, Doug Onishi and Jason Johnson
Canada’s water pipeline infrastructure is aging and deteriorating. According to the first Canadian Infrastructure Report Card 2012, the total replacement cost of drinking water systems is $68.6 billion. Water distribution and transmission pipelines account for over $50 billion, or 73% of the replacement value. The cost to replace Canada’s wastewater collection system is estimated at $70 billion, with pipelines accounting for approximately 79% of that.
Fixing, renewing and replacing this critical infrastructure is essential for Canada’s well-being and economic prosperity.
Trenchless technologies are a series of construction methods that have been developed to repair, renew and replace pipelines without the need for continuous excavations. Over the past 20 years these innovative construction techniques have grown in use. They have shown cost savings of up to 40%, when compared to open cut replacement, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% – 100%.
Founded in 1994, the Centre for Advancement of Trenchless Technologies (CATT) and its membership of university, municipal and industry representatives, are committed to the advancement of knowledge, materials, methods and equipment used in trenchless technologies. CATT’s efforts and activities include technology transfer initiatives, such as specialized training sessions, a biannual trenchless roadshow, research and material testing, development of trenchless specifications and industry networking.
CATT is also working to address the need for a standardized watermain defect coding and condition rating system. Generally, municipalities manage their watermain rehabilitation program based on break history, water quality improvement, or capacity needs, with no standardized methodology.
In 2013, the Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) put out a request for proposals to develop a potable water pipeline defect condition rating system. Dr. Mark Knight, executive director of CATT, Dr. Rizwan Younis, Dr.Yehuda Kleiner and others teamed up to win the assignment.
The project’s goal is to develop an industry-accepted standard, which will allow all cities in North America to speak on common terms and to determine which pipes need to be fixed and when. It will also lay the foundation for North America’s water utilities to determine the real cost of the water infrastructure backlog and deficit, which is known to be increasing annually.
Also in 2013, CATT researchers Dr. Knight, Dr. Younis and Jason Johnson were awarded an Ontario Centre of Excellence and Natural Science Engineering Research Council grant for a “Novel Water Technology for Liveable Communities.” Under this grant the researchers are working with Envirologics to advance the “Tomahawk” waterless water-pipe cleaning technology, and to develop a new way to apply a water barrier coating to in situ water pipes.
This technology offers significant cost savings to water utilities for renovation and upgrades while at the same time allowing same day return to service.
Another area of research is water infrastructure asset management where Dr. Knight, Dr. Andre Unger, Dr. Carl Haas and their team of graduate student have been developing a system dynamics asset management tool with their industry partner cities of Waterloo, Cambridge and Niagara Falls.
To better understand the state of the trenchless industry CATT developed and conducted the first Canadian Annual Municipal Infrastructure Survey in 2013. The survey collected information from Canadian municipalities on construction renewal, financing of water, wastewater and stormwater pipelines. A total of 124 municipalities from several provinces participated.
The survey received input from larger, medium and smaller sized municipalities. Approximately 20% of the municipal participants have a population greater than 500,000, 23% have a population between 500,000 and 100,000, and 57% have a population less than 50,000. While staff training was noted by about 50% of the respondents to be very important, 40% of the respondents reported a training budget of less than $5,000. Respondents noted that open-cut construction methods are still the dominant method for water and wastewater pipeline renewal and construction.
Critical issues identified by the survey included:
- Improving water quality and flows, ensuring pipe integrity, and reducing water main leaks and breaks.
- Inflow/infiltration, flow capacity and root intrusion in wastewater pipelines.
- Flow capacity, surcharging, pipe collapse and infiltration in stormwater pipelines.