Preventative Maintenance Plans Protect Your Water, Wastewater Systems

Preventative Maintenance Plans Protect Your Water, Wastewater Systems

Every two years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases a report card evaluating the state of the United States’ infrastructure. The most recent report card assessed U.S. infrastructure with an overall C- grade.

The nation’s infrastructure for drinking water received the same C-. The ASCE found that an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water is lost each day in the U.S. – enough to fill over 9,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – due to defects in our water infrastructure.

A Water Main Breaks Every Two Minutes

Our wastewater and stormwater infrastructure fared even worse. Wastewater received a D+ and stormwater a D, respectively.

On the wastewater side, the more than 16,000 treatment plants in the U.S. are functioning, on average, at 81% of their design capacities. 15% of those plants have reached or exceeded their capacities.

70,000 sanitary sewer overflows occur annually. Sanitary sewer overflows occur when sewer pipes clog or pumping stations break down – both scenarios that occur more often in the United States’ aged and overworked infrastructure.

The average sewer line in the U.S. is 45 years old and at 81% capacity.

Most states have installed dedicated stormwater utilities to separate their storm and wastewater sewer systems. They also continue to install impervious surfaces such as pavements and parking lots which have exacerbated the problem of urban flooding that has resulted in $9 billion in damages annually. This excess stormwater typically winds up in sanitary sewer systems when it overflows out of its own pipes. This results in additional, costly issues in treating wastewater. We are effectively paying to treat clean stormwater that has diluted the wastewater.

Municipalities that don’t address sewer overflows and other wastewater infrastructure issues can run afoul of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA) and Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulate discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States, as well as quality standards for surface and drinking waters. Municipalities can be fined tens of thousands of dollars if their sanitary sewer systems are regularly overflowing into their freshwater sources.

While the past couple of years have seen increased attention paid to funding projects to improve the overall state of the country’s infrastructure, the fastest way to better engineering grades, cleaner water, and properly functioning sewer systems is to put in place comprehensive, proactive maintenance plans.

Proactive maintenance plans allow municipalities and large facilities to locate problems and repair them before they cause…widespread issues such as service interruptions, water main breaks, sinkholes, or worse.

To aid in the shared goal of healthier infrastructure, GPRS has introduced maintenance plans that detail the best practices for proactive maintenance of water and wastewater systems.

A man works on a remote controlled rover.
GPRS Project Managers are equipped with the knowledge and tools to help you visualize your wastewater infrastructure.


GPRS recommends the following video pipe inspections for municipal, facility sewer, and storm system maintenance and safety:

Biennial Inspections

All sewer/storm systems should undergo biennial video (CCTV) pipe inspections to locate defects such as cross bores, degradation, inflow & infiltration, etc.

A video pipe inspection is a sewer line inspection that involves sending a remote controlled, camera-equipped rover into a sewer line to inspect it for the defects. These inspections eliminate service interruptions and other repercussions that can be caused by unmitigated pipe defects.

It is recommended that customers begin with biennial video pipe inspections, so you know the exact type, location, and severity of any problems and can track them on a regular basis.

The National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO) sets industry standards for assessing, maintaining, and rehabilitating underground infrastructure, including pipelines, manholes, and laterals. You should require that the sewer inspection company conducting video pipe inspections within your municipality, campus, or facility be NASSCO certified.

Directional Drilling

Video (CCTV) pipe inspections should be completed by a contractor both before and after they perform any work involving directional drilling or other trenchless technologies, such as fiber or gas line installation.

The inspection should include all segments of the sewer/stormwater system along the bore path, including laterals.

Cross bores – inadvertent intersections of utilities – most commonly occur because of directional drilling, as a new line is bored through an existing utility. The Cross Bore Safety Association (CBSA) estimates that there are about a million undetected/untreated cross bores riddling the United States’ buried infrastructure. Any one of these cross bores could cause system interruptions or lead to more serious repercussions, such as explosions, if a gas line is involved.

The contractor performing the directional drilling work should be required to hire a video pipe inspection service that is NASSCO certified.

New Installation/Repairs of Sewer/Storm Lines

Video pipe inspections of sewer/stormwater mainlines and laterals should be required both before and after any construction work occurs within 100 feet of any sewer line(s).

In many cases, general contractors unknowingly perform work that leads to damage to city sewer/storm lines. As previously stated, directional drilling activities could lead to cross bore damage and lead to additional utility issues. Additionally, heavy machinery moving above sewer lines can damage the system.

Requiring that the contractor have VPI conducted on the lines within their project area prior to starting work ensures any pre-existing damage is accounted for and repaired. Requiring post-construction inspections ensures any damage that occurred because of the construction is also addressed at no additional cost to the taxpayers or stakeholders.

The general contractor should be required to hire a VPI service that is NASSCO certified.

A worker listens for leaks in a fire hydrant.
Leak detection services help municipalities mitigate non-revenue water (NRW) loss.


GPRS recommends the following leak detection preventative plans for municipal water system maintenance and safety:

Annual Water Loss Surveys

All water systems should undergo annual water loss surveys for preventative maintenance.

This proactive approach to maintaining your water infrastructure requires contracting with a leak detection specialist to use acoustic leak detection and leak detection correlators to evaluate the integrity of your water system.

Acoustic leak detection involves using sophisticated ground microphones to listen for leaks coming from pressurized subsurface pipes. Leak detection specialists are trained to home in on leaking pipes’ specific sounds and frequencies. A trained ear can pinpoint a leak within inches with these technologies, allowing for more precise excavations for repair.

Leak detectors, or leak noise correlators, are specialized electronic devices that leak detection service companies use to locate leaks in water pipes quickly and accurately.

Leak detection correlators work similarly to acoustic leak detector. However, while acoustic leak detectors rely on a human to manually listen to the frequencies emitted from pressurized pipes through sensitive audio listening equipment, leak noise correlators detect the vibrations with a computer.

Sensors are placed on both sides of the pipe being inspected. These sensors use radio waves to send information back and forth between each other, then an automated process identifies each suspected leak location based on that information and displays it on the main control unit. The processing unit then compares this data with mathematical algorithms designed for the specific noise profiles of the pipe material being tested, determining the leak’s precise location.

The primary purpose of leak correlators is to detect leaks. Properly trained leak detection specialists use leak correlators in conjunction with acoustic leak detection equipment to accurately pinpoint the location of a detected leak.

Visible Surface Leaks

Leak detection services should be conducted any time visible surface leaks are present. Standing surface water or water flowing from a surface leak are indicators of a critical, possibly dangerous subsurface leak.

Leaking water systems can also lead to contaminated drinking water that compromises a community’s health and safety.

New Installation/Repairs of Sewer Storm Lines

Leak detection services should be conducted any time water infrastructure is installed or repaired to ensure the integrity of both the new and pre-existing infrastructure.

New pipe segments can sometimes be installed with defects that could go undetected until they cause service interruptions, damage, or lose pressure. Leak detection services can identify these defects so they can be promptly corrected.

Water & Sewer Damage Awareness Week banner.
Water & Sewer Damage Awareness Week is a chance to learn how best to protect your water and wastewater infrastructure.

To spread awareness about the risks to our water and wastewater infrastructure, GPRS has launched a new safety initiative dubbed Water & Sewer Damage Awareness Week. From October 23-27, our safety experts are offering complimentary safety talks to municipalities, facility managers, campuses, and anyone else responsible for water and/or wastewater infrastructure.

Click here for more information and to sign up for your WSDAW event today!

Learn More!