Supply Chain Issues Affecting Water Infrastructure Projects

“Supply chain issues” is one of the most commonly-heard phrases in 2022. Ever since 2020, the ripple effects of past and current COVID policies have caused everyday items to become scarce. The water and wastewater industries are no different. Equipment that ordinarily a 3-month lead time may now be 18 months. Ductile iron pipe, which could ordinarily be delivered to a job site within a week, may now take up to a year or more to receive. Water service fittings, which were always in stock and on shelves, now must be ordered months in advance. Iron-related products have been hit even worse due to the Russia-Ukraine war. Manufacturers are scrambling, vendors are filling orders as best they can, contractors are using what products they can get their hands on, and municipalities are delaying projects.

What can be done?

Flexibility is key! Engineers and municipalities should keep their expectations in check and move forward with projects with the understanding that there may be substantial delays in construction start dates due to the extended lead times. Contractors and local material supply companies are operating at the mercy of the manufacturers and global commodity markets. Another means of flexibility is to expand the list of acceptable materials and products beyond the norm. Many utilities have grown accustomed to being able to select the pipe materials or model numbers they prefer to be installed within their systems. Today, if a project must be completed within a limited timeframe, then utilities have needed to consider alternative materials. For example, it is common for utilities that have historically only preferred ductile iron water main pipe to now utilize PVC or HDPE water main pipe.

Infrastructure projects must move forward, and Commonwealth Engineers is here to help municipalities walk through these difficulties. For more information, contact our Business Development Team at