Watermain Replacement Services: What to Expect

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Across the US, tens of thousands of miles of watermains supply drinking water to homes and businesses. However, they can become corroded and break with age, causing expensive and inconvenient problems for communities.

Why Your City Needs Water Service Line Replacement

There are several reasons you may need a watermain replacement service in Michigan or Indiana. Here are some of the most common reasons municipalities replace their watermains.

Lead Service Line Replacement

Before 1960, it was common for cities to use lead water pipes to deliver water to homes and businesses. However, research began to indicate that lead causes serious health and cognitive problems, especially for children. Since then, state governments and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have created rules in the interest of public health that require cities to gradually replace every lead service line in their systems. 

These requirements also mean that galvanized steel pipes that are or once were joined with a lead water line will also need to be replaced.

An expert watermain replacement service is familiar with what the new regulations and requirements entail. In Michigan, these rules include:

  • Replacing all lead service lines in your system.
  • Reducing the lead action level in your system from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 12 ppb by 2025.
  • Taking second water sample collections at sites where lead service lines are active.

Preventative City Water Line Replacement

Watermains are prone to developing leaks, corrosion, or rust with time. They can also become worn as water demand increases when people move into the areas around them.

Taking a proactive approach and fixing or replacing the watermain before problems occur can save your city tens of thousands of dollars or more. If your street department is planning to repair or repave the roadway above the water lines, it can be more cost-effective on multiple fronts to replace both during the same project.

Emergency Water Line Repair

Nobody wants to have to use this service. However, watermains can break or rupture due to ground settling, temperature changes, or severe weather. Breaks can also happen because of human error, particularly excavation work on roadways.

While your water department can fix watermain breaks in a pinch, it pays to work with expert engineers who can perform comprehensive repairs that will keep you from having to repair additional breaks in the future.

Watermain Replacement Methods

Trench Digging Replacement

In watermain replacements, trench digging involves creating a narrow ditch in the ground to install, inspect, or perform maintenance on pipes. In the Midwest, trenches for watermains are usually between 5 and 7 feet below the surface—this is to keep them below the frost line.

Most engineering firms will create these trenches using excavators along the road. While this process is somewhat labor-intensive, it’s also ideal for certain types of projects, depending on what’s around the current watermain, ground conditions, and other factors. Trench digging replacement is also more economical for most watermain projects.

Trenchless Watermain Replacement

Trenchless watermain replacement involves drilling a single hole in the ground and pushing a thin pipe liner made of a special resin into the existing watermain. Once the liner is in place, it will eventually harden into a watertight seal when it finishes drying.

The trenchless method is less invasive than traditional trench digging, and it doesn’t cause significant damage to the landscape or roadway above it. While it can be more expensive than trench digging in some cases, it’s ideal for replacing watermains near congested areas, rivers or lakes, and railroad lines.

What to Expect: Funding, Design, and More

At a glance, this is what you can expect from the watermain replacement process from start to finish:

  • Funding: Obtain grants or other funding from states or the federal government. Many cities can’t afford watermain repairs on their own, which makes grants essential.
  • Designing: Choose a company with decades of experience designing watermain replacements like F&V to help you plan your replacement.
  • Permits: Obtain the necessary permits to begin the watermain replacement project.
  • Excavation: Your replacement crew will dig either a full trench (or an access hole for trenchless replacements), keeping in mind the depth and width you need.
  • Sand bedding: The crew will install sand bedding in the trench for placing your new pipes.
  • Installation: Inspecting the pipe for damage and cleaning it, the crew will lower the pipe into the trench to get it in place.
  • Connection: Join the pipes together so they can function once they’re connected to the larger system, then connect the new pipe to the existing watermains.

How Much Watermain Replacement Costs

The cost of replacing watermains can vary. Some of the most common factors that can affect the cost of your repair or replacement project include:

  • Required size of the replacement watermain
  • Materials needed for the new watermain
  • Soil and groundwater conditions in the affected area
  • Watermain location
  • Roadway condition
  • Whether you need trenched or trenchless installation
  • Labor cost
  • Project timeline
  • Grant and loan availability

Finding a Watermain Replacement Service

When you’re looking for a watermain replacement partner, look for engineering firms with decades of experience installing and replacing watermains in all types of settings. 

Fleis & VandenBrink’s (F&V) water system experience is extensive and includes designing and constructing 6-inch to 42-inch supply and distribution mains, booster stations, treatment plants, and filtration improvements. See our project experience for yourself.

Choose F&V for Reliable Watermain Replacement Services

Want to learn more about our watermain replacement services? We’re happy to help and walk you through the process. Contact us today to get started.