Types of Water Supply Pipes

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Types of Water Supply Pipes
water pipe (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Sherrie Thai)

Water supply pipes are critical components of civic and industrial water distribution systems, which keep buildings and homes functioning, and factories in business. Federal and state governments invest significant sums of money in the design, installation and maintenance of new water distribution systems, as well as to repair, replace or upgrade existing water supply pipes. So, one can safely assume that if water is the lifeblood of a nation, water supply pipes are indispensable for supply and distribution of that lifeblood.


Water supply pipes are circular in design, and come in varying lengths, materials and diametric sizes to suit specific applications. They are a very important feature of buildings, homes, industrial establishments and other construction projects. Water supply pipes are usually installed underground, but pipes of very large diameter, size and length are also laid over ground, both serving the same purpose of distribution of water from treatment plants or large water bodies to consumers. Water supply pipes of residential complexes and homes are installed along exterior walls or are concealed within the walls of such places.


Water distribution specialists consider many factors when selecting the ideal types of water supply pipes for residential or commercial applications. Factors include pipe specifications--material, thickness, lengths, non-corrosive properties, diametric size and carrying capacity; cost of the water pipes--installation and transportation; and topographical/geological nature of terrain the water supply pipes will traverse during installation.


Earlier, only limited types of water supply pipes were available, but today, there is a wide range of such pipes, each constructed of materials designed/recommended for different residential and commercial applications. Water supply pipes can be divided into three main categories: metallic pipes, cement pipes and plastic pipes. Metallic pipes include steel pipes, galvanised Iron (GI) pipes and cast Iron (CI) pipes. Cement pipes include concrete cement (CC) pipes and asbestos cement (AC) pipes. Plastic pipes include low-density, Polythene pipes, and un-plasticised, Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) pipes.


Steel pipes are comparatively expensive, but are the most strong and durable of all water supply pipes. They can withstand high water pressure, come in convenient (longer) lengths than most other pipes thus lowering installation/transportation costs and can easily be welded. Concrete cement pipes are expensive but non-corrosive in nature; and extremely strong and durable. However, being bulky and heavy, they are harder and costlier to handle, install and transport. Asbestos cement pipes are far lighter than concrete cement pipes, but less strong and durable, possess good corrosion-resistance, and are easy to handle and transport. PVC pipes are non-corrosive, extremely light but strong, easy to handle and transport, and come in long lengths that lower installation/transportation costs.


Installation of water supply pipes of incorrect specifications--for example, material type, diameter, thickness, length, water pressure-withstanding capacity and joint-strength--can lead to rupture of such pipes. This is why it is crucial to first study the specific technical requirement of the end-application when designing a water distribution system, and then selecting the ideal water supply pipes. This will result in big savings in time, effort and money and, most important, a precious, natural resource.

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