City staff Monday presented a plan to spend $17.8 million over the next five years to replace Evanston water mains, but conceded that won’t be enough to catch up any time soon with deferred maintenance on the aging distribution system.

How old is the water main in front of your house?

Given that a third of the city’s water mains are already beyond their estimated useful lifespan of 100 years and another third are at least 60 years old, it would take a century to eliminate the over-age water pipe problem at the proposed pace of replacing 1.5 miles of pipe per year.

Utility Director Dave Stoneback says that at the proposed pace some water mains will be close to 150 years old before they are replaced.

He added that over much of the past two decades the city has chosen to defer spending on the water distribution system as it spent money to improve its sewer system in a successful effort to reduce flooding problems.

A plan to eliminate the backlog of water distribution infrastructure work in 20 years, instead of 100, would likely require spending three times as much each year as the $3.1 million in the staff proposal.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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