How to Cut Water Bills by Billions of Dollars


Leaky pipes lose an estimated 2.6 trillions gallons of drinking water every year, or about 17% of all water pumped in the United States. One reason the situation is so bad is that water utilities use corrosion-prone materials. Corrosion represents a $50.7 billion annual drain on the economy. So says a new study by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

One way to save billions of dollars would be to open up the system to consideration of a wider variety of piping materials.

“Today’s modern piping technology is vastly superior in performance and life expectancy than what was being built in the ground throughout most of the 20th century,” states the report. A shift in pipe selection from iron materials to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) potentially could generate savings of $370 billion nationwide.

“While innovative and cost-effective products and technologies are readily available, these products are often excluded from consideration.” The report cites the “habituation factor,” or “the tendency of government officials to select the materials they are comfortable with and have used for years.”

ALEC calls for opening up the procurement process to consider a wider variety of piping materials that meet recognized standards set by the American Society of Testing Materials and the American Water Works Association.

While we’re at it, when we install new pipes, why don’t we embed them with sensors that tell us if they do begin to leak? The prospect of saving $51 billion a year will pay for a lot of retrofitting!


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11 responses to “How to Cut Water Bills by Billions of Dollars”

  1. freeelectron Avatar

    And from Wikipedia: This was just approved for use.

    So this does not seem like a new idea.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    A public service message brought to you by the Koch Brothers and the oil and chemical industries!

    1. Ooh! Ooh! Maybe one of the Koch Brothers subsidiaries sells PVC pipe!

      1. Breckinridge Avatar

        The Koch brothers are not the only interested parties capable of gaining ALEC’s attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if some company with an interest in a particular technology has been stymied by building codes or by a preference for a more expensive dig-it-up-and-replace-it model.

        1. WTF? are we saying that municipalities are refusing to take advantage of new technologies that would save money?

          this is crazy, nutty…..

          I know the right wing has gone wacko on a lot of things but to now accuse govt of just denying the use of technology – is just… well.. I’m at a loss for words.

          Is there a scintilla of real evidence on this?

          we’re getting to the point where the right just throws whatever they think will stick to the ‘anti-govt” wall..

          more and more – the right is offering nothing towards solutions.. virtually everything they have to say now days is negative and anti-govt in the basic message.

          Just because some company thinks they have a great product – does not make govt bad – for thinking hard about it before they buy it.

          here we have govt – which might be exercising some level of due diligence in safeguards taxpayer dollars – being accused of wasting taxpayer dollars because they won’t just buy whatever some company says is good stuff.

          good lord.

  3. I really don’t see the problem where I am.

    Fredericksburg has been using plastic liners in older pipe for a while as well as video pipeline crawlers…

    but I agree.. this is a curious narrative coming from ALEC –

    ALEC: ” ALEC has produced model policy on issues such as reducing corporate regulation and taxation, tightening voter identification rules, digital due process[9] streamlining or minimizing environmental protections, over-criminalization[10][11] and promoting gun rights.”

    I would actually expect ALEX to oppose efforts increase taxes to pay for existing water/sewer lines on a proactive basis… this is the first I’ve heard of most “small govt” groups advocating spending money on infrastructure and in fact the GOP in Congress has refused to spend money on repairing bridges and other infrastructure even though it would provide jobs because “government is the problem”.

    very curious for a “small govt”, “lower taxation” group. I wonder where they think the money would come from to do these upgrades if not from taxpayers and ratepayers?

    1. Breckinridge Avatar

      Most public water and sewer systems are fee-based, user-pays and based on consumption so that is exactly the funding model that ALEC is most likely to support.

      1. they are – both public and private – and people raise holy hell when the rates go up to pay for proactive upgrades – in advance of waiting for failures then having emergency increases.

        the bottom line is that ratepayers for water/sewer – see those rates the very same way they see “govmint” taxation.


        You should hear the folks up our way equating water rate increases with bad govt…. or govt run amok… and let govt dare suggest that low flow/low use devices be installed – and people start yelling about govmint thuggery and coercion… abrogating individual liberty and worse!

        the whole thing has gone bizarre.

  4. of course the other way to lower water bills – is to reduce consumption by using more efficient devices like low use toilets, etc.

    most water planning entities use about 100 gallons a day per person or about 300 per day per household – when they are planning downstream for new water supplies – which these days even in the east are hugely expensive.

    like landfills – the less you use – the less expensive the capital facilities cost and the longer they last before needed new ones.

    Lastly – less water usage may reduce waste-water treatment costs which are not only also hugely expensive – but in this day of TMDLs – limited.

    Of course the mantra of the free-market folks is that we don’t need no stinking government to figure these things out – the “market” will.

  5. Plastic pipe? So why don’t they use a drilling machine, like the one they use to bury cables, to install the plastic pipe instead of tearing the heck out of existing infrastructure? Heck, push 3 or 4 lines at a time so you have a backup for expansions or emergencies.

  6. what is done up our way is to use a plastic liner in existing metal pipe.

    You know.. I find this whole narrative a bit weird.

    Most but by no means all – water/sewer infrastructure as well as planning and construction of reservoirs and potable water treatment – as well as sewer and wastewater treatment plants are done by government.

    The very same govt that is too corrupt and incompetent to do settlement patterns, transportation infrastructure, fire and rescue and least but not least – schools.

    Yet, until this narrative by ALEC, you seldom hear people talking about just how bad govt is at water/sewer much less that the private sector should do it.

    Why is that?

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