Processing Magazine

Water and wastewater pipe market predicted to grow

June 4, 2013
concrete pipe
Photo credit: Elizabeth Engle/Getty Images/Hemera/Thinkstock

Following a period of weaker market activity and sluggish demand, the U.S. water and wastewater pipe market is set to rebound and increase gains dramatically, according to new analysis published in the Environmental Expert.

The financial recession between 2007 and 2009 heavily affected the market in the period from 2006 to 2011 but with most economies now far more stable, and as a number of governments worldwide put water infrastructure on their list of priorities, experts predict healthy growth of the pipe market and a steady rise in revenues. Demand is expected to go up in the United States as well, as there are more favorable conditions for public spending following a number of budget constraints in 2011, which led to numerous state and municipal projects being delayed.

Over the next few years U.S. pipe demand will be increasing thanks to a combination of factors, in addition to those mentioned. Construction is also predicted to grow, while in many cities old pipes will have to be replaced because of their age and the need for upgrade of the water systems to comply with new regulations. As government spending was focused on other projects during the economic downturn, many states are now seeing water distribution and infrastructure as a task that can no longer be delayed.

The research, conducted by the Freedonia Group, also noted that there was an increase in the average number of bathrooms per household and their size. During the recession period many buildings were fitted with fewer and smaller bathrooms, which further restricted pipe demand. The housing crisis had aggravated the problem, as local utilities could not effectively collect water fees from the thousands of foreclosed homes around the country. However, the outlook through 2016 is positive and, as an indicator of the recovering industry, construction has returned to levels recorded prior to the financial crisis.

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The Freedonia Group predicted that plastic pipe will be the fastest growing segment of the industry over the next few years and plastics will continue to dent the market share of other competitive materials. Plastic pipe performance is rapidly improving thanks to advanced technologies in resin production that ensure durability and effectiveness in more demanding environments. In addition, processing improvements will enable plastic pipes to become more cost-effective in comparison to other materials.

By 2016, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) will still be the most popular and most preferred resin used in plastic pipe because it is vastly dominant in small-diameter applications, including sanitary sewer and agricultural markets. Despite the drop in demand between 2006 and 2011 the PVC pipe market is expected to rebound, thanks to a pickup in construction activity. However, the best long-term growth prospects are predicted for high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, as it set to continue gaining ground in in drainage, storm sewer and water distribution markets over materials like steel, concrete and PVC.