The water line break last month in Odessa proves that old iron pipes across the state are failing.

According to the Texas Tribune, the water line break on June 14 that left many in Odessa without water for 48 hours resulted from water lines over 60 years old and made of iron.

“Aging water systems are common throughout the country,” said Thomas Kerr, Odessa’s Utilities Director, “It’s often difficult for municipalities to be able to afford to manage those systems as they age. That’s the situation we find ourselves in.”

Cities all over Texas are having the same problems, Laredo had a water line break in February from 50-year-old pipes, and College Station also had a line break as well but that break was blamed on dry conditions.

The one thing all towns in Texas have in common is pipes made of cast iron or iron-based materials which were commonly available and used after World War II when many cities were growing their infrastructure.

Those iron and iron-based pipes are now deteriorating and falling apart and towns with older infrastructure will be seeing more breaks, especially with water pipes.

“We’ve learned that cast iron pipes have lives of about 50 years, so [Odessa] got past 60 years,” said Ken Rainwater. “But it’s like you deciding, ‘How long am I going to wait to change the tires on my car?’”

So cities are now having to get funding to replace lines that are made of iron with new lines that should last many more years than the iron pipes have.

The funding will be covered by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the Biden Administration back in November. Texas is expected to receive $508 million this fiscal year so failing pipes can be fixed and water main breaks will be lessened in the next several years.

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