How old are your water pipes? A new Sewerage & Water Board map will show you

By Beau Evans

Source: | The Times-Picayune

May 14, 2019

The Sewerage & Water Board has released a new interactive map that shows the location and age of underground water pipes across New Orleans.

The map, published on the Sewerage & Water Board’s website, comes with a search function to hone in on a specific address and view the age of the nearest water pipe. It’s color-coded, with “red” signifying pipes installed between 1900 and 1919.

The interactive map can be found here:

More than half of the pipes that distribute drinking water through New Orleans have outlived their useful lifespan, according to Sewerage & Water Board officials and a news release the utility issued Tuesday (May 14). There are roughly 1,530 miles of water pipe citywide, and more than one-third have been in use for a century or longer.

Leaks from water distribution pipes in New Orleans are prevalent. The Sewerage & Water Board loses around 82 million gallons of water each day during the treatment and distribution process, according to estimates from a recent outside audit. That rounds out to about 19% of the total cost to produce drinking water between 2008 and 2017.

Many miles of pipe are being replaced already as part of $188 million in projects the Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding. More pipes are on deck for replacement via FEMA-funded roadwork projects worth roughly $1.7 billion, jobs that the Sewerage & Water Board and the city’s Department of Public Works are leading.

The new map arrived less than two weeks after a 114-year-old water main burst and flooded parts of Uptown, prompting a precautionary boil advisory for the neighborhood.

The new map was first presented at a breakfast event Tuesday morning hosted by the nonprofit Bureau of Governmental Research at which Sewerage & Water Board’s executive director Ghassan Korban spoke. Korban has routinely drawn attention to the age and deteriorating state of water pipes since the earliest days of his now more than eight-month tenure as the utility’s top official.

Korban, according to a news release, spoke Tuesday about how money will be spent from a recently unveiled infrastructure funding deal struck involving Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Gov. John Bel Edwards and local tourism industry leaders. The $50 million in immediate, one-time money secured in the deal, Korban said, will fund upgrades to a power turbine so it can operate in cold weather, installation of power-conversion equipment aimed at replacing two in-house turbines and improvements to distribution lines that supply Entergy electricity to several facilities.

Korban also reiterated the Sewerage & Water Board intends to complete a master plan covering all facets of the utility’s operations, assets and future outlook.

“Once we decide where we need to go, we must chart our course to get there,” Korban said in the news release. “That will be the guiding principle of the Master Plan process. Where we are now – putting up with water rather than living with it – is not where we want to be.”

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