Piping for Infrastructure Projects

Whether selecting new pipes for development or renovating an existing system, there are numerous opinions when it comes to the pipes you should choose for your water infrastructure project.

 It must be stated that any mistake would be a costly one for your project. With a considerable $200.8 billion forecast to be spent on water transmission and distribution projects between 2007 and 2027, industry experts need to become effective at selecting reliable materials. This figure makes up the majority of the country’s $334.8 billion projected to be spent on infrastructure needs between 2007 and 2027.

Clearly, piping forms the crucial connection for water distribution. Providing clean water from taps and garden hoses would be impossible without a large network that safely delivers water to homes and businesses.

Similarly, our wastewater and sewage systems are reliant on sturdy pipes to keep them functional. A water pipe can last for over 100 years until it begins to leak and needs replacing.

 As you know, this is why picking the best type of pipe for your infrastructure project is so important. From drinking water to oil and gas, selecting the right material will add years to your project’s lifespan and reduce costs.


A brief introduction to types of piping

We have learned plenty about pipe materials over the years, with the corrosive effect of hydrogen sulfide on concrete one of the most-researched phenomena. During the 1900s, concrete sewers were known to rot at alarmingly rapid rates due to wastewater reacting with hydrogen sulfide present in the atmosphere.

This particular chemical reaction results in the formation of sulfuric acid – a highly corrosive substance. The acid has the potential to corrode hundreds of feet of concrete piping over time, forcing people to create pipes from new materials or otherwise reduce the risk of sulfuric acid.

Here are the main types of piping in use today:

  •     Bar-wrapped concrete pressure
  •     Fiberglass
  •     Ductile iron
  •     Prestressed concrete pressure
  •     HDPE
  •     PVC
  •     Steel (and carbon steel)


This is a general overview of the main types of piping to choose from, but do be aware that countless variations of each type exist. It is up to you to do your research about the exact kind you select for your project.

How to narrow down your options 

Before diving into the pros and cons of each pipe’s material, you need to consider the types of piping which would suit your project. There are a number of variables to consider including the condition of the soil, material availability, and pipeline diameter.

When using fiberglass or steel, you must be aware that they retain their structural integrity by becoming properly embedded in the surrounding soil. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that you use these

types of pipe in soil that will support them properly, or ensure that your contractors are able to set these down within a well-designed trench to make up for questionable soil conditions. 

When weighing up the cost of your infrastructure project and have different types of piping to choose from, consider the material prices. For example, ductile iron, PVC and prestressed concrete can cost up to $34 more per linear foot than bar-wrapped, fiberglass, HDPE or steel.


If you are designing a piping system to carry drinking water or wastewater, avoiding internal corrosion is one of the biggest factors to consider. You also want to make sure that your choice is resistant to pressure and has a low risk of causing contamination. 

–       Ductile iron can be made from up to 95% recycled iron materials, and also provides a reliable hydraulic flow. To ensure against external corrosion, it is recommended to fit the piping with a polyethylene casing. These pipes can carry water for decades if properly installed and protected against corrosion. 

–       Steel has been long-used in the USA for carrying water, as it is recognized for its resistance to hydraulic pressure. It is simply a very strong material and does not break very often. Variants like carbon steel are known for their lower cost and increased versatility.

–       Concrete piping, as mentioned, is a very sturdy material that is capable of staying in the ground and carrying water for up to 150 years. It is perfect for marshy, damper soil since it is only 15% dependent on support from surrounding soil to remain intact. However, the biggest downside with concrete is undoubtedly the proneness to corrosion from sulfuric acid when soil conditions are acidic. 

–       If you are planning to lay down some piping in an earthquake-prone area and are unsure where to look, consider HDPE. Modern technology creates almost unbreakable joints in this piping, evident in the complete lack of damage HDPE pipes experienced during the powerful 2010 earthquake in Chile. 

–       PVC might be a fairly old material, but new fusion techniques have meant that it is capable of competing with HDPE in terms of strength. 

If you are looking for piping that is suitable for transporting gas and oil, PVC has been proven to be unaffected by gasoline. This is one of the primary hydrocarbon contaminants.

Similarly, steel such as alloyed chrome-moly is often used in power plants. These two materials are both excellent at dealing with high temperatures, so you can rely on this kind of piping to transport oils and other substances found near refineries or power plants.  

This was a very brief introduction to the world of choosing the correct piping for different infrastructure projects. There are many factors to consider, from external conditions to the properties of the piping itself. 

The main thing to bear in mind when making a decision is that it must be for the long term. Piping systems are expected to last for 50-100 years without replacement, so picking reliable materials is key.

Jack Vale is a writer for Scaffold Store, a scaffolding manufacturer, and retailer.