Crumbling water pipes across America

[First posted in Nov 2019, see update below]

We live in an advanced country and cant believe our infrastructure is crumbling! When compared to developing countries, here we are used to turn on the faucet and expect clean drinking water 24/7, but that is not what is happening in lots of places. You hear and see rusty water, lead water (Flint Crisis) and broken mains. This is bad for a lot of reasons:

  • If you get rusty/lead water in your tap…imagine drinking that (without been paying attention). It is estimated that over 70% of pipes, made of iron, are laid under city streets near 80 to 100 years ago. They have reached their end of life and corrosion is what you experience first before they open up with holes.
  • These holes in the pipes are the cause of lot of wasted (purified) water. As per some estimates, US loses nearly 2 Trillion gallons of treated water in a year! This results in an enormous loss of revenues to the water companies and not to mention all the money wasted treating the water.
  • And the worst thing with these holes, is that they let all kinds of bacterial, chemical contamination into the water, which will cause severe health issues.

As it is not possible for humans to go into the lot of these pipes, several have developed robots that can crawl and inspect. There are always attempts to build a better crawlers but there are still several challenges that need to be solved, for example the same crawler should be able to go up & down as well. This is wonderful…do not have stats on how much of those are in use..but am assuming it is not quite common and we need better & economical ideas of robotic systems need developing.

Another way, non-invasively, is to develop smart meters that not only measure water supply but also have built in instrumentation to test various bacterial/chemical contents. We may have to develop a miniaturized & economical way of tests and that is an wonderful opportunity for Pieneers to tackle!

Good luck to all the Pieneers!

As always, know of anyone or any startup working on this, please let me know, I will update this post.

Update (Aug 28, 2022)- In some areas earthquakes present additional danger, so LA city is working with USC, to leverage AI and strategically upgrade the pipelines. Given the budgetary constraints upgrading the entire system is not feasible.

[Image Credit: Thanks to scottyuk30 via Pixabay]

About Krishna Vuppala 54 Articles
I am passionate about technology & innovation with a mission to 'Accelerating Global Innovation'. I believe, that there exists an "innovation gap" and the current global innovation efforts to solve real meaningful challenges are moving at a slower pace! The reason, I believe, is lack of awareness of those challenges to the global talent! This blog is part of that journey to spread the word on the Problems (that are) Worth Solving! #ProWoSo

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