Uncovering the destructive truth about water pipe corrosion

Water is an essential resource that we rely on every day. It is used for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning, among other things. The water utilities sectors play a crucial role in ensuring that this precious resource is delivered safely and efficiently to our homes and businesses. 

However, one of the most significant challenges facing the water utility sector is water pipe corrosion. 

In this blog, we will delve deeper into the truth about water pipe corrosion and why it is such a critical issue for those working in the water utility sector.

What is corrosion?

Corrosion is a natural process that occurs when metals come into contact with water and oxygen. Over time, this chemical reaction can weaken and damage the pipes, leading to leaks, bursts, and other issues. The effects of corrosion are not limited to the water pipes themselves; they can also have significant implications for public health and the environment.

Pipe corrosion can be split into two broad categories:

  1. General corrosion
  2. Localised corrosion

Generalised corrosion is corrosion that is spread evenly across the surface of the pipe, and tends to contaminate the water, rather than cause a structural failure. 

Localised corrosion is more difficult to deal with. It causes breaks to occur in the asset, meaning a failure in the water system occurs. There are different types of localised corrosion. These are:

1. Galvanic

With this type of corrosion, a chemical reaction occurs between two metals that are within a solution. The reaction effectively creates a mini battery, causing one metal to corrode and the other to be protected.

2. Pitting

Pitting corrosion occurs when a small area of the metal experiences intense localised corrosion possibly because of stagnant water conditions or slow-flowing water. It is difficult to predict and treat. 

3. Under-deposit

This type of corrosion occurs in crevices when deposits become trapped and accumulate over time causing corrosion to occur. 

4. Microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC)

This includes any corrosion which is primarily caused by bacteria which can include pseudomonas, sulphate-reducing bacteria and nitrite-reducing bacteria.

5. Erosion

Erosion corrosion occurs deposits within the water abrade the surface of the asset over time. 

At our NDT company, we have seen firsthand the destructive impact of water pipe corrosion. As a leader in non-destructive testing and inspection, we have worked with water utilities across the country to identify and mitigate corrosion-related issues. 

The cost of corrosion

Water pipe corrosion can be an expensive problem for utilities to address. The cost of repairing or replacing corroded pipes can be significant, and it is often difficult to predict when and where corrosion will occur. This year, water companies have earmarked £20 billion to fix leaks in the UK alone.

In addition to the direct costs of repairs, corrosion can also lead to indirect costs such as water loss, reduced water pressure, and decreased system reliability.

Health impact

But the financial impact of corrosion is just the tip of the iceberg. Corrosion can also have serious implications for public health and safety. For example, corroded pipes can leach contaminants such as lead and copper into the water supply, posing a risk to consumers. In addition, corrosion can create an environment where harmful bacteria can grow, leading to potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Environmental impact

Water pipe corrosion also has significant environmental consequences. When pipes leak or burst, it can lead to water waste and pollution. 

Preventing Corrosion

Given the significant costs and risks associated with water pipe corrosion, it is essential for water utilities to take proactive steps to prevent and mitigate the issue. One effective strategy is to implement a comprehensive corrosion control program that includes regular inspections, testing, and maintenance. 

Non-destructive testing techniques such as ultrasonic testing, magnetic particle inspection, and corrosion mapping can help utilities detect corrosion early and take action before it becomes a more significant problem. 

At NDT Group, our Innovation division offers a range of NDT services that seek to deliver the assurance that your equipment, pipelines and sites are safe. We are proud to partner with WRc Infrastructure to provide access to their state-of-the-art leak detection, condition assessment and active leakage control solutions to deliver a comprehensive range of testing services for the Water Utility Sector

Interested? Learn more 

Corrosion: a significant challenge

Water pipe corrosion is a significant challenge for water utilities. It can be expensive, pose risks to public health and safety, and have environmental consequences. However, with the right approach, utilities can mitigate the effects of corrosion and ensure that they are delivering safe, reliable water to their customers. At NDT Group, our Innovation division is committed to working with water utilities to help them address this critical issue and protect the health and wellbeing of their communities.

Responsive testing that delivers assurance that your equipment is safe.

Contact us for a quality testing service with a fast report turnaround. We can respond to any challenge.

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