WSSC Water has been serving the residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties since 1918. Our mission is to provide safe and reliable water to our customers and return clean water to the environment, all in a fiscally responsible manner. WSSC Water is now faced with the critical challenge of old and failing infrastructure. WSSC Water maintains about 5,573 miles of water mains.
As WSSC Water moves toward 100 years of service, we are faced with aging (deteriorating) pipes and valves. As of December 2009, almost 26% (about 1,443 miles of water mains out of nearly 5,794 miles we maintain) are more than 50 years-old. Approximately 1,973 miles of mains (35%) are between 31 and 50 years-old; 547 miles of pipe (10%) are 25-30 years old; the remaining 1,610 miles of pipe (29%) was installed in the last 25 years.
The older pipes (installed before 1931 and up to 1975) are either cast iron or asbestos cement and have reached their natural life span (see chart). The aging process is driven by corrosion of the metallic pipes by the soil and by water in cases of internally unlined pipes.
Please refer to the Aging Infrastructure and Water Main Breaks FAQs for more information.
The issue of aging infrastructure, and how to pay for infrastructure renewal, goes beyond WSSC Water . It is a national issue. The federal and state governments have spent relatively little on underground water/wastewater infrastructure, concentrating more on roads and bridges.
For WSSC Water, that means taking the necessary steps to ensure day-in-day-out water/wastewater services while limiting as best we can the burden on the ratepayer.
The WSSC Water budget allows for the replacement of water and sewer mains. The number of water main replacement miles has exceeded 52 miles per year and will be constant or increase for the foreseeable future. The average cost to replace one mile of water pipe is $1.4 million.
WSSC Water is also under a Consent Decree to inspect and rehabilitate the sewerage collection system, which includes 5600 miles of sewer lines. The cost estimates on that project are now above $500 million.
In 2010 the Commission re-formed the Bi-County Infrastructure Funding Working Group (which included Prince George's and Montgomery counties as well as WSSC Water staff and Commission members) to study ways WSSC Water can meet the challenges of the future and at the same time keep customer rate increases as low as possible.
The Working Group contracted a consultant to help study the issue. The consultant's report was completed in the spring of 2012. The Working Group submitted the report with a series of recommendations and the Commission passed a resolution adopting the recommendations in June of 2012.
Paying the Pipers for Utility Upgrades - Gazette Editorial, September 7, 2012 [pdf]