Studies have shown that the U.S. water infrastructure is reaching the end of its lifespan. Not only are the million miles of pipes that deliver our water aging out, the growing population is increasing the demand on current infrastructure and the need for expansion. An AWWA report found that more than $1 trillion dollars will be needed over the next few decades to restore and expand the existing water network.
With such an expensive undertaking in store, many cities are looking for ways to improve their existing assets and perform extensive upgrades while operating with limited budgets. One option is to retrofit existing infrastructure. Retrofitting allows contractors to integrate new technologies into existing systems, satisfying the need for upgrades if unable to meet the costs of building completely new water treatment systems. Ultimately, refurbishment and retrofitting can be a cost-effective solution to treating and eliminating water contaminants as well as improving water quality.
Although water utilities can reap major benefits from retrofitting, it is important to make sure current systems are suitable for the project. Three questions to consider when deciding if retrofitting is the right option for your existing water infrastructure are:
- What is the existing infrastructure and is it sufficient? In order to retrofit, there must first be some existing infrastructure in place. If there is none or if the infrastructure that is in place is so poor that it would not support retrofitting, a new construction or complete rehab may be a more suitable option. Utilities should examine their current assets and needs and determine if their existing infrastructure can be greatly improved upon retrofitting.
- Are there retrofit options readily available for the utility’s needs? There are many refurbishment and retrofitting options to revive existing water treatment systems and improve overall water quality. But finding the right option for a utility’s specific water quality needs may take time and extensive research. Utilities should research system manufacturers that will partner efficiently and quickly with them on refurbishment or retrofitting needs.
- Is retrofitting the most effective option? In many cases, retrofitting offers significant cost and timesavings, decreasing the length and disruption of a project on a community. There are some instances, however, where retrofitting requires extensive permitting, or refurbishment only delays an inevitable replacement instead of merely providing a solution. Each project is unique and the long-term goals need to be carefully assessed to ensure that retrofitting is indeed the best option.