The major water pipe rupture that forced residents of the largest city of Kansas to boil their water before using it for several days underscores concerns about Wichita’s aging infrastructure.
The interruption in the plumbing that led to a boil last week came after the city’s waterworks lost some of its electricity, so the pumps that were carrying water through the system automatically shut off. The cook order was lifted for Wichita Saturday.
“That was an abrupt shutdown,” said Alan King, director of public works and utilities. “When we increased the pressure again and pressurized the system, it was a rapid pressure drop (followed by) a rapid pressure rise, and neither is good for pipes, especially older pipes. “So we think that changes in pressure caused the pipe to break.”
The Wichita Eagle reports that a 2017 assessment found that 99% of Wichita’s water treatment plant was in poor condition and the entire raw water pipeline system was in very poor condition. Recent reports suggest that Wichita’s water supply requires hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and near-constant repair and replacement.
The city is aware of the fragile state of its water supply and has earmarked $ 10 million a year in its latest capital improvement plan for repairs, replacements and maintenance of distribution lines that broke down Thursday.
This can be remedied by a new waterworks under construction, which will not be ready until 2024 at the earliest.