The City of Moab’s public works department has been working on leaking pipes.

However, according to city engineer Rebecca Andrus, the work is more related to maintenance than it is to system failure.

“Most of it is fairly routine,” Andrus said. “It’s just that more people are paying more attention to it right now than they usually do.”

Weeks of single-digit temperatures in January led to several water main breaks last winter, leaving residents without water. It also called attention to the City of Moab’s aging water and sewer infrastructure, most of which was put in place during the Uranium Boom of the 1950s and ’60s.

During the City of Moab’s Visioning meeting held in February – which included the city council, department heads and key staff members – finding a solution to updating and upgrading the city’s infrastructure of water and sewer and roads was named a top priority.

Jeff Foster, the director of public works, said during a that a six-inch waterline that served the Cottonwood neighborhood near 400 East and Hwy 191 broke in September.

“This was the most recent break. We haven’t had a lot since the rash of waterline breaks in the winter and spring,” Foster said.

Residents in the neighborhood were without water for several hours while the waterline was being repaired.

Andrus said that waterline may have been weakened by the cold temperatures this winter, but only began to split now. Crews patched the break, then it would split again as the water was turned on.

Foster said that the last fix should solve the problem for a neighborhood that has endured several water outages since last winter.

The Cottonwood neighborhood is down the street from the water main break on 400 East that affected several residents last winter and spring.

The 400 East water main break under the Pack Creek bridge required a week-long closure of the north-side arterial street in January. Residents on the south side of 400 East in the Minor Court and Rowena Court area were without water for about a week. The City of Moab spent over $100,000 to permanently fix the 400 East water main.

The 10-inch water main is one of three major water mains into Moab. When the 400 East water main was down, the water main that flows into Moab through Mill Creek Dr. took additional stress.

Waterlines branch off the water mains to serve businesses, residences and neighborhoods.

Just as crews were able to temporarily fix the first break near the Pack Creek bridge on Saturday, Jan. 12, there was another waterline break that evening on 400 East near WabiSabi that affected Milt’s Stop and Eat, Dave’s Corner Market, Grand County High School and residents in the area. There was another break on Mill Creek Dr., south of Dave’s Corner Market on Feb. 2.

The road on 400 East used to dip down into the creek bed before the bridge was built in the 1970s, as did the original water main. When the bridge was built, the water main wasn’t realigned as it should have been, Foster said.

The city chose to abandon the original pipe that ran run the bridge by replacing it with 400 feet of new water main that goes through the middle of the bridge. Contractors had to drill a 20-inch hole through the bridge to allow for 18-inch casing that goes around the 12-inch pipe.

Road crews were on site in September to finish paving the section on the bridge that was cut for the replacement of water main in April.

There have been a few other in recent months, Andrus said, mostly related to Questar’s mapping project of gas lines on the west side of town.

There was a waterline on Bartlett Ave. and another on Westwood Ave. that were hit and had to be repaired in May or June that were related to the Questar project, Foster said.

There was a broken waterline on 100 West in July that was also related to the Questar mapping project.

Despite the nicks and repairs during the project, Andrus said that Questar’s project is helping the city’s engineering department map out the waterlines to be able to do a detailed asset management plan.

“It has helped our planning process tremendously,” Andrus said. “This data included pipe type and depth for water and sewer mains and services. We were able to use that to proof and augment the previously obtained data. They also took video of the sewer mains and provided all that information to the city. “

Andrus has been working closely with Foster to analyze the city’s infrastructure in order to create a detailed asset management plan that would allow for the replacement of water and sewer lines over time.

“We’re looking at a total of 43 miles of waterlines,” Andrus said. “The total magnitude of it is significant. If we replaced every pipe in a 50 year time period – we would be replacing 4600 feet of pipe each year.”

That’s just short of one mile of pipe to replace each year.

That doesn’t include replacing 33 miles of aging sewer lines, or putting in storm drains. And in order to replace the water and sewer lines, roads will have to be dug up and replaced.

Questar’s mapping project has helped tremendously. The gas company has been working on the west side of town this year, but intends to do mapping work throughout the rest of the city over the next two years, Andrus said.

“We plan on getting that data as well,” she said.

Moab’s public works department will also be doing road work on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 9 and 10.

“They are putting on an oil coat to rejuvenate the asphalt,” Andrus said. “It is somewhat experimental and a product we haven’t used here before. Other jurisdictions have found success with making pavement last longer.”

Crews will be applying the oil coat on 400 East from Mill Creek drive to 100 North; then on 500 West from 400 North to Williams Way.

“Although we will be trying to maintain two-way traffic during the process, there will likely be times when the roads will be reduced to one way traffic with flaggers,” Foster said. “The delays will be as short as possible, but if you need to get somewhere in a hurry you may want to choose another route on these days. We apologize for any inconvenience but the roadway surfaces will last considerably longer if we continue to apply these protective coatings on our roads regularly.”