Do you have an area in your system where breaks are common, back-ups are anticipated, or bypassing occurs frequently? The majority of underground infrastructure was installed in the post-World War era, which makes it between 50 and 75 years old, and only continues to age.

Time has taken its toll and many of the facilities that are in place are in desperate need of rehabilitation. Add this to the constant cry for “hold the budget” for sanitary, storm, and water facilities. Today’s utility operators are tasked with making budgets stretch and utilizing rehabilitation techniques that get the most “bang for their buck”.

Effective management and planning by public works staff are critical to meet the demands of deteriorating infrastructure and go from being “reactive” to “proactive” with maintaining your underground facilities.

Know Your System

The first step in getting somewhere is knowing where you currently are – the same holds true with your underground facilities. Having an updated inventory of your existing facilities is Step 1 to achieving a system that functions at an efficient level. For smaller systems, this could mean maintaining clean and accurate as-built drawings that depict the locations of all the underground municipal facilities.

In addition to the as-built drawings, many municipalities and system operators are moving toward digital record keeping by way of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). GIS not only clears the clutter of bulky as-built drawing storage, but it allows for multiple users to access the data and utilize it as needed. Know where your systems are and where the problem areas exist.

Maintain Your System

Just like an oil change keeps your engine operating like it should, properly maintaining your sanitary, storm, and water systems today, will help in preventing premature failure in the future.

  • Is your water system flushed yearly?

  • Are the water valves exercised every year?

  • Are you performing storm water outfall inspections for critical areas in your system?

  • Are you televising and cleaning at least 10% of your sanitary sewer system every year?

If you answered “no” to one or more of the prior questions, perhaps you should consider discussing these items with your consultant or local peer municipal staff members to determine if these are items you should be doing.

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Weigh Your Rehabilitation Options

Is open cut dig and replace the only method for replacing your failing infrastructure? While dig and replace has been the tried and true standard for years, there are certain circumstances where exploring other alternatives makes sense. In high traffic areas, dig and replace construction can be disruptive to commuters and staging traffic can lead to extended construction timeframes and additional costs. Can you rehabilitate the pipe by slipping a cured in place liner and maintain your commuter traffic flow? Most of today’s liners are structural and provide for a pipe that is standalone and doesn’t require the host pipe to handle any of the load.

In addition to lining, there are a number of other methods of trenchless rehabilitation including pipe bursting, directional drilling, jack and bore, tunneling, swagelining, and spray-in-place to name a few. Every utility owner should know the basics of these techniques so that they can be discussed when a project arises.

R/M is hosting a seminar next month in our Waukesha office and in Menasha at the Elisha D. Smith Public Library that will cover these methods and when they should be considered. Click here to learn more.

A Coordinated Approach

When planning for your utility rehabilitation project, it is best to coordinate with other departments at your municipality and the neighboring municipality. Too often a street that was paved two years ago gets torn up so that the water main or sewer main can be replaced. This situation is avoided by departments within the municipality communicating with one another regarding their upcoming projects and the needs of the other utilities in the area. 

A smart approach for rehabilitation is to identify the facilities that need to be rehabilitated and then coordinate with the owner/operator of the adjacent facilities to determine if rehabilitation of their system makes sense. This coordination should ideally be done at least 5 years in advance. The utilities should be replaced a year ahead of the paving so that any trench excavation has the opportunity to settle prior to paving. These projects are coordinated within the various departments and represented in the municipalities capital improvement plan (CIP) and budgeted for in advance.

The end goal is a highly functioning program that weighs the proper methods for utility rehabilitation that are appropriate for the project, a coordinated approach that involves all utility stakeholders, and a planning process that allows for budgeting in advance of the projects.

About the Author

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Jerad J. Wegner, P.E.
Team Leader/Project Manager

Jerad has extensive experience with a wide variety of projects, including street and highway design, intersection analysis, transportation facilities, storm sewer design, storm water management plan and review, sanitary sewer design, sanitary sewer capacity analysis, sanitary sewer rehabilitation, water main design, plan reviews, cost estimating, quantity take-offs, State and County permitting, and on-site construction review of sanitary and storm sewer, water main, pavement and curb and gutter. Jerad is PACP Certified (Pipeline Assessment Certification Program).

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