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National Database Aims To Help Cities Fix Water Pipes

Construction worker in new pipe being laid near Glendale.
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
Construction worker in new pipe being laid near Glendale.

The federal government is funding a new database of water pipelines around the U.S. The database will eventually offer cities information they can use when making expensive decisions about which water mains to repair, and how.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation is funding the project. Virginia Tech is running it. The school cites federal numbers that state needed repairs to water infrastructure will cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Sunil Sinha, who directs the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Management Center at Virginia Tech, explained the need for reliable data this way:

“We need to collect the right data, so that it can change to information. Then information can become knowledge and that becomes wisdom, so that good decisions can be made," Sinha said.

The information will stick to the main lines and not include pipes running to individual houses.

Sinha thinks within a month, the project will have most of Arizona’s big utilities on board. Once cities and utilities sign Memoranda of Understanding to agree to participate, they contribute the data they have to the national database.

As for any privacy concerns, Sinha said the database will be generalized for end users and not share data belonging to a specific utility.

Bret Jaspers was previously the managing editor for news at WSKG in upstate New York. Before that, he was a producer at WYPR in Baltimore and at Wisconsin Public Radio.His stories have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Here & Now, and also the BBC and Marketplace. Way back when, he started as an intern and fill-in producer at WNYC’s On the Media, and then helped out on The Brian Lehrer Show and Soundcheck.When he's not covering the news, he's probably running, reading, or eating. Jaspers is also a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union for professional stage actors.