These days, the ability to foresee the probability of failure of particular infrastructure systems can help city departments prioritize projects for the future. For example, technology can help decide which water mains are top priorities, allowing for more cost-effective capital programs.

The PWD (Philadelphia Water Dept.), www.phila.gov/water, Philadelphia, Pa., recently implemented a new software solution for drinking water infrastructure management.

The PWD water system serves more than 1.7 million people through 3,200-miles of mains, three water treatment plants and 15 pumping stations, and provides fire protection through more than 25,000 fire hydrants.

The technology—CapPlan Water from Innovyze, www.innovyze.com, Arcadia, Calif.—calculates the risk of each asset, allowing PWD to create full capital programs with short-term and long-term water main rehabilitation, replacement, maintenance, and management plans.

The software will give PWD the ability to use advanced performance modeling and risk assessment tools to improve rehabilitation and renewal planning of water systems.

One of the unique characteristics of this technology is the risk-assessment capabilities. The probability of failure is determined based on the pipe’s physical condition, location, and hydraulic-performance characteristics. The consequence of failure is based on data such as water outages, reduced fire protection capabilities, flooding, degradation of water quality, and other factors.

Users can identify the greatest risk of water deficiencies or structural failure and can then make decisions about the best possible solution to improve the system performance based on the available budget. Overall, this type of technology allows city departments to improve capital improvement plans.

In particular, the U.S. water and wastewater system is under great pressure these days, and technology innovations in this area of construction can help move toward more effective capital plans.

According to the Water Design-Build Council, www.waterdesignbuild.org, Washington, D.C., antiquated water infrastructure is failing, as is evident by the large number of water main breaks. Additionally, more than 20% of drinking water is lost and 1.2 trillion gallons of storm water and wastewater overflow every year due to leaks and breaks in water pipes and sewer lines.

Software is helping all types of city departments plan for capital projects. Risk assessment may be more of a priority in the years to come, as the government places greater focus on improving the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.