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1.5: Pipelines

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    Student Learning Outcomes

    After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

    • Describe the different pipe materials and sizes
    • Explain hydraulics and how water moves through pipes
    • Identify the causes and results from water hammer and tuberculation

    Throughout the history of water distribution, a critical component of getting water from the source to the customer is pipelines. Pipelines within a distribution system can be separated into three (3) main categories:

    • Transmission Piping
    • Distribution Piping
    • Service Piping

    These three (3) categories have very distinct characteristics and uses.

    Transmission Piping

    Transmission water mains (piping) are the largest in diameter of the three. They can range from as small as 16” in diameter up to more than 120” in diameter depending on the size of the distribution system, the location of the source water, and the number of customers within the distribution system service area. Smaller utilities with the sources of supply relatively close to the distribution system would have the smaller diameter pipes while larger utilities with the source water further from the distribution system would have larger diameter transmission mains. Transmission water mains convey large volumes of water from the source to areas within the main distribution system. They are commonly installed without any other connections to the pipe until it reaches the distribution system. However, in smaller distribution systems there can be additional pipes connected to a transmission main and there may even be service connections. Below is an example of a transmission water main.

    HEP Water Pipeline
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Image by James T M Towill is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Distribution Piping

    Distribution system piping is simply that, piping that distributes water throughout the distribution system. Diameters of distribution system piping range from as small as 4” up to 24” and sometimes larger. The most common sizes of distribution system water mains are 8” – 12”. Distribution mains connect to transmission mains as these pipes enter a distribution system. These water mains branch off into roads within communities to bring water supplies to customers.

    Diagram of mains connecting to customer pipe
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Image of house by rdevries is licensed under CC0 1.0 (modified by COC OER)

    Service Main

    In order to get water from the distribution main to a customer, a service main (lateral) is attached to the distribution main. In the diagram above, you can see this pipe between the distribution main and a black dot. The black dot represents the water meter or point of connection between the water utilities infrastructure and the customer’s piping. Service laterals typically range in size from 1” to 10” in diameter. Most single-family residential service laterals are 1” to 2” in diameter, while larger commercial services can range in size up to 10” in diameter and sometimes even larger. The size of a service lateral is dependent on the amount of water use from the customer.

    Pipe Selection

    There are a number of things, which dictate the type of pipe material a utility would select. As discussed above, the use is something utilities look at to determine the material to use. Other things include resistance to corrosion, interior smoothness, cost, ease of use, strength, and local conditions (i.e., soil type).

    Pipeline Materials

    There are various materials used for water mains. In the 1800s up to the early 1900s, wooden water mains were used. Wood was a usable material because hollowed-out wooden logs did not expand like metal pipes and the thickness provided insulation properties. However, as distribution systems became more sophisticated and pressures increased, wooden pipes were replaced with grey cast-iron pipes.

    Heritage wood stave iron hoop water pipe
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Image by John Newcomb is licensed under CC BY 3.0

    Grey cast-iron pipe (CIP) was easier to manufacture. They were strong and provided a long service life. One of the main drawbacks of this pipe was its brittleness. If the pipe wasn’t handled carefully, it would easily crack. Another major drawback was the lead poured joints. In order to properly connect sections of the pipe together a molten lead joint was poured around each connection point.

    Pipeline of Throckley Aqueduct, Heddon Banks
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Image by Andrew Curtis is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Ductile Iron Pipe

    In the early 1970s, manufacturing plants moved away from CIP and started manufacturing ductile-iron pipe (DIP). DIP is even stronger than CIP, more versatile, not brittle, and does not use any lead. The only drawback to DIP is the susceptibility to corrosion from aggressive waters and soil. In order to protect the inside of DIP from corroding, they are commonly lined with cement mortar. If soils are corrosive, DIP is usually wrapped in plastic bags. The images below show examples of cement mortar lined (CML) DIP and DIP that has been “bagged” before installation. DIP typically comes in diameters of 4” – 64” and usually in lengths of 18’ – 20’. The pressure range for DIP is 150 psi to 350 psi.

    Ductile Iron Pipe
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): Image by Yeti Hunter is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
    ductile iron pipe
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): Image by Frankemann is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    Steel Pipe

    Steel pipe has been used for well over a century. In the mid-1800s when water pressures were high, steel pipe was commonly manufactured for use. While steel pipe can be manufactured to small diameters (4”), the more common use of steel pipe is when large diameters are needed. Diameters of steel pipe ranges up to 120” and even larger if needed. Steel pipe is lighter in weight than CIP and DIP and can be fabricated for special needs. Some of the main disadvantages to steel pipe are both internal and external corrosion and the potential for a partial vacuum to collapse the pipe.

    Steel pipe
    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\): Image by Mike Alvord is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    Asbestos-Cement Pipe

    Asbestos-Cement Pipe (ACP) was first introduced in the US around 1930. It was commonly used in areas where metallic pipe was subject to corrosion. Pressure classes are not typically as high as pipe made from metal, but they come in pressure ranges up to 200 psi. ACP only comes in diameters ranging from 4” to 42” and the lengths (10’ – 13’) are shorter than their DIP counterpart. ACP is not subjected to aggressive waters as metal pipe, it is fairly lightweight and has a relatively smooth interior surface. It is fairly brittle and can crack if not properly handled. Special safety precautions must be taken in order to prevent employees from being exposed to asbestos fibers.

    asbestos-cement pipe
    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): Image by DDanielsson and Wayne Eddy is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

    Polyvinyl Chloride Pipe

    Polyvinyl chloride pipe (PVC) were first introduced around 1940. The durability, resistance to corrosion, lightweight, and cost-effectiveness soon became very attractive in the waterworks industry. Because these pipes are made with vinyl chloride, they must be tested and meet certain criteria to ensure no harmful chemicals leach out. In some instances, PVC pipe can also cause taste and odor problems. Another desirable characteristic of PVC piping is flexibility. When using PVC piping, special care must be taken when storing for long periods of time since plastic is susceptible and can become damaged from ultra-violet light.

    Polyvinyl chloride pipe (PVC)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\): Image by Pam Broviak is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The above-mentioned pipes are primarily used for transmission and distribution piping. The material used for service laterals are commonly made of either copper or PVC. However, in years past, galvanized pipes were also used. Copper is malleable and resistant to corrosion, which makes it a perfect material for piping between a distribution main and the point of connection to a customer. PVC is also used with the preferred type of PVC being polybutylene since it is not as ridged as schedule 40 or schedule 80.

    Pipeline Connections

    Water mains are generally connected together with either mechanical or push-on joints and sometimes flanged connections. The type of connection is determined by the installation. For example, above-ground pipeline installations, such as in pump stations, flanged connections are very common. A flanged connection provides a strong and ridged connection and allows for easy disassembly if a section of pipe or other appurtenance needs to be removed. Flanged connections are not as common in underground installations, primarily because of the exposed nuts and bolts of flanged fittings. Pipes connected with push-on joints are manufactured in a “bell” and “spigot” style. The bell end is a wider flared end and the spigot is narrower and tapered. See the example below.

    Polyvinyl chloride pipe showing spigot and bell ends
    Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\): Image is in the public domain
    Polyvinyl chloride pipes (PVC)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{11}\): Image by Dwight Burdette is licensed under CC BY 3.0

    The bell end has a gasket inside and the spigot end is “pushed” on to make the connection. Both ends of the pipe must be thoroughly cleaned and lubricated before making the connection. One of the main problems with push-on joints is the possibility of the joints separating under certain conditions. In addition, on slopes, push on joints must be installed with the bell end facing uphill. This will prevent the spigot end from sliding out of the bell. In some instances where additional support is needed, there are certain restraints that can be used. These types of connections are typically less expensive than other connections and are easier to install.

    Mechanical joints, restrained joints, and flanged connections are also used to connect pipes and fittings together. Flanged connections are typically limited to above-ground installations because of the potential of corrosion and dirt filling in around the bolts.

    Gasket inside a joint
    Figure \(\PageIndex{12}\): Image by Mysid is in the public domain
    Water Main joint
    Figure \(\PageIndex{13}\): Image by Ian Capper is licensed under this CC BY-SA 2.0
    Flanged joint
    Figure \(\PageIndex{14}\): Image by Brandonrush is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
    Flanged joint
    Figure \(\PageIndex{15}\): Image by Markus Schweiss is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

    Mechanical joints are similar to push-on joints. However, they have a means to “lock” the pipe and fittings together. Restrained joints are used with push-on fittings and require some type of restraining system. Below is an example of one such restraining system, mega lug rods. Tie rods are another type of restraining system. These help to hold two sticks of pipe together.

    Staff Sgt. Josh Kreutzer and Staff Sgt. Justin Sharp, both assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, tighten nuts on a mega lug Sept. 15, 2008.  The mega lug is being prepared as a temporary valve to close off the end of a broken water pipe in order to restore water to the Blatchford-Preston Complex at an undisclosed air base in Southwest Asia.  The overnight water main break resulted in a loss of water for the entire complex. The engineers are hard at work bringing operations back to normal.  Sergeant Kreutzer, a native of Fontana, Calif., is deployed from McChord Air Force Base, Wash.,  Sgt. Sharp, originally from Ulysses, Pa., is deployed from Scott AFB, Ill. Both are here in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Boquette/Released)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{16}\): Image by Tech. Sgt. Michael Boquette of the U.S. Air Force is in the public domain

    Sample Questions

    1. Flanged pipeline connections are very common ___________.
      1. In below-ground installations
      2. Only for sewer systems
      3. In above-ground installations
      4. None of the above
    2. Asbestos-cement pipe come in lengths ___________.
      1. Longer than DIP
      2. Shorter than DIP
      3. The same as DIP
      4. All of the above
    3. Transmission water mains deliver ___________.
      1. Water directly to customers
      2. Water to treatment plants
      3. Carry large amounts of water
      4. Water directly from service laterals
    4. Which of the following would be a correct order for how water gets to a customer?
      1. Source, distribution main, transmission main, service lateral
      2. Service lateral, distribution main, transmission main, source
      3. Source, transmission main, service lateral, distribution main
      4. Source, transmission main, distribution main, service lateral
    5. Which of the following pipe material is most susceptible to collapse from partial vacuum?
      1. Steel
      2. DIP
      3. Plastic
      4. Concrete

    This page titled 1.5: Pipelines is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mike Alvord (ZTC Textbooks) .

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