Results show significant drop in water main breaks

Whether it’s for drinking, cooking or washing, the water coming from your tap has already made quite a journey.

Hundreds of miles of underground water pipes are in operation across the City of San Diego. But some of those pipes were installed in a time before television or computers – a time when “cast iron” was considered state of the art. More recently, those cast iron pipes are cause for concern, and are responsible for a large number of water main breaks each year.

“[Cast iron] was initially installed back in 1920, and it has reached its lifetime,” said Rania Amen, Deputy Director of Engineering & Program Management in the City’s Public Utilities Department. “It corrodes quickly, depending on the soil conditions, so it’s likely to break more than any other water mains.”

That’s why the City is making the switch to plastic pipes – better known as PVC – and replacing 300 miles of old cast iron pipes throughout the system. City officials say the proactive approach is paying off.

“We’ve seen a tremendous improvement in the reduction of water main breaks as a result of this very aggressive, proactive cast iron replacement program,” said Amen.

During calendar year 2010 there were more than 130 water main breaks. For 2015 the number dropped to 65, the least number of breaks recorded per year since 2004. The City aims to have all cast iron pipes in the system removed by 2023. Currently, projects are underway to replace larger transmission pipes up to 48 inches and the smaller 16 inch distribution pipes, which feed directly to each home and business. The City is on track to replace all of those neighborhood distribution pipes by the end of 2017. And the goal for the next 75 years?

“Any of our City of San Diego customers, they would be able to turn on their tap and they have water all the time,” said Amen.

For more information on the cast iron replacement program and what it means for your neighborhood visit the Water & Sewer Projects page on the City’s website.