What are the most common causes of residential water or sewer disruption?

Q:

What are the most common causes of residential water or sewer disruption?

A:

Water and wastewater plumbing are some of the most crucial elements in any residential or commercial building. However, since these components are typically buried and hidden from view, their maintenance is often overlooked.

As such, they are exposed to various factors which can lead to disruptions and other unpleasant situations.

In extreme cases, disruptions in potable water or sewer infrastructure can give rise to unsanitary and unhealthy conditions, impede emergency response, and cause structural damage to immediate and adjacent structures. Failures in water and sewer piping can be the result of several factors, many of which can usually be avoided with adequate maintenance and proper due diligence.

Some of the most common causes of residential and sewer disruptions are outlined below.

Corrosion Damage

Corrosion is a natural destructive process in which a metal surface deteriorates due to reactions with the surrounding environment. As metal pipes corrode, their wall thickness reduces, resulting in a significant reduction in strength. (Check out this infographic: The Lifespan of Steel, Clay, HDPE, and PVC Pipes.)

These weakened points promote crack growth, which can eventually lead to breakage or failure. In addition to affecting water supply pressures, broken pipes can also cause indoor flooding and property damage.

Tree Root Infiltration

Tree roots can also jeopardize the integrity of underground potable water and sewer piping. Roots naturally grow toward sources of moisture and, therefore, tend to gravitate toward piping infrastructure. If left unsupervised, roots can enter lines through loose joints and grow to the point where they can clog or even break through pipe walls.

Severe Pipe Damage

Broken or damaged water pipes can sprout leaks which can decrease overall water pressures. Likewise, leaks in sewer pipes can also affect the ability of sewage to adequately flow through the system. While corrosion and tree root infiltration are frequently responsible for pipe damage, other common causes include excessive load above the pipe, faulty construction, and soil shifting or settlement.

Debris in Piping System

Debris in water and sewer infrastructure can disrupt the flow of fluid through the piping network, resulting in lower pressures and inconsistent water supply. Excessive debris can also cause clogging, which can lead to backups, flooding, and pipe rupture.

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Written by Krystal Nanan
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Krystal is a civil engineer and project manager with an MSc in Construction Engineering and Management. Her experience includes the project management of major infrastructure projects, construction supervision, and the design of various infrastructure elements including roadway, pavement, traffic safety elements and drainage.

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