Information Exchange: Publications

The Use of GIS and Statistical Analysis for the Preventative Maintenance of Pipelines

Author: Ewe-Leng Lim, P.E., Technical Manager, Roy F. Weston, Inc.

"As the country’s pipeline infrastructure ages, it becomes increasingly challenging to assign limited capital resources to prioritize the repair, replacement, or rehabilitation of these assets. This applies to water, sewer, gas, or any other pipelines system in the country. There is a growing need by municipalities to find better ways to prioritize their future projects. Much research has gone into the process of pipeline distribution system rehabilitation planning. The American Water Works Association (AWWA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and other professional associations have produced numerous publications on the subject. Results and recommendations from these studies have been adopted by Utilities in varying degrees. Most Utilities have adopted some form of subjective ranking system to prioritize pipeline rehabilitation. A smaller number of Utilities have completed regional statistical analyses to predict pipeline failure and incorporate the results within a cost-benefit analysis.


The challenge in research is for a sound statistical methodology to be developed that is applicable throughout the regions of the United States to better predict pipe failure based on a pipeline’s physical nature, its installation process, and its interaction with the surrounding environment. This will provide planners and engineers with objective justifications for the implementation of effective preventative maintenance. A further step into the future research could also be carried out to develop special sensors that can be installed on the pipes themselves during new pipe installations or onto existing pipelines with minimal intrusions to provide feedback or “early warnings” of impending failure when certain conditions produce high probability of failure for that pipeline in the near future – such as within the next six months or a year. The social, economical, or political impact of pipe failure at various locations or pipeline connections can also be brought into the evaluation equation for the decision making process. This would be akin to an intelligent infrastructure that is reporting on its own “health” to a central control “brain” that is running probabilistic diagnoses in real time for the prioritizing of preventative maintenance."

Date Created: October 2001; Date Posted: March 2002





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