Trenchless Technology: A Growing Industry for Infrastructure Management
The complex needs of North America’s underground municipal services continue to expand as critical infrastructure reaches the end of its lifecycle. This is a major challenge for our communities.
According to a recent American Water Works Association State of the Water Industry Report, the single most important issue faced by North American municipalities is the renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure.
The question on everyone’s mind should be – Is there a way we can rehabilitate existing systems and install new systems that is economically feasible as well as environmentally sensitive and socially responsible? The answer is yes, and the technique to consider is trenchless technology. By definition, trenchless technology is a progressive civil engineering process for the installation, replacement or renewal of underground utilities with no, or minimal, excavation and surface disruption. These innovative methods have been used successfully for all underground utilities including water mains, storm and sanitary sewers and gas mains, along with electrical and fiber optics conduits.
The social and environmental benefits of trenchless technology are noticeable when employed in urban areas. These substantial benefits include dramatically reduced disruption to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, business activities, residential areas and environmentally sensitive areas. In most cases, trenchless techniques also demonstrate significant cost-saving benefits for municipalities and utilities over traditional open trench methods.
NORTH AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR TRENCHLESS TECHNOLOGY (NASTT)
NASTT is a not-for-profit engineering society of individuals, public organizations and private companies with strong beliefs in the practical, social and environmental benefits of trenchless technology. NASTT strives to advance the technology and to promote its benefits by increasing awareness and knowledge by providing technical information, research and development, education and training.
NASTT engages instructors and panelists who are experts in their field to inform and assist public works and construction professionals. These volunteer instructors ensure that all of NASTT’s educational content is peer-reviewed and offered from a non-commercial perspective.
The annual NASTT No-Dig Show is the largest trenchless technology conference in North America, where professionals attend to learn new techniques that will save money and improve infrastructure. The conference offers 160 technical presentations, including case studies detailing environmentally friendly trenchless solutions and cost-saving opportunities for municipalities and utilities. The show also features an exhibit hall of over 200 organizations that help advance the industry.
NASTT has a growing library of both technical papers as well as Good Practices Guidelines. The online trenchless library houses over 2,000 technical papers on all aspects of trenchless technology and is a valuable industry resource for research, case studies and innovations. NASTT’s Good Practices Guideline books cover the major topics of trenchless technology and can be used as standalone reference materials or as a companion to NASTT’s Good Practices Courses, which are supported by an affiliation with Louisiana Tech University, which provides Continuing Education Unit certificates for course attendees.
To solve North America’s increasing infrastructure needs, it is important that new technologies are continually developed and advanced to market. Through research, along with hands-on utility management, these issues can be addressed in the most environmentally, economically and socially responsible ways.
Michael J. Willmets is a long-term member of the NASTT No-Dig Show Program Committee and served as an Instructor for NASTT’s Trenchless Technology Short Course. After 35 years in infrastructure management, Mike retired from the City of Ottawa in 2008 and started the next day as NASTT’s Executive Director.