In the wide open spaces of north-central Wyoming, communities in Big Horn County suffered from an unreliable source of ground water. The useable water supply was located nearly 20 miles away, leaving the rural area vulnerable to service interruptions in the event of a water main break. That’s just what happened in 1996, when anunderground pipeline connecting several communities broke and cut off water service for days.

To remedy the problem, the Big Horn Regional Joint Powers Board (BHRJPB), which oversees the area’s infrastructure, installed a 15-mile pipeline to collect, treat and distribute ground water to surrounding communities. Because the region is home to harsh climates, extreme temperature changes and corrosive soil, the BHRJPB selected GFRP piping: It holds up in severe conditions and is strong enough to last for years without breaking.

FLOWTITE™ 18-inch diameter fiberglass pipe was used for the project, saving the BHRJPB nearly $2 million in construction, energy and long-term maintenance costs.The interconnected water system – known as the Northern – known as the Northern Supply Pipeline – protects residents from service interruptions, provides water to areas without domestic water supply and decreases the dependence on a surface water supply system.

According to John Joyce, director of the BHRJPB, four pipe materials were originally considered for this project: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), ductile iron (DIP) and DuPont Teflon® tape-wrapped steel pipe. A study by an engineering firm revealed that all of them had limitations, including high corrosion potential, additional maintenance costs and low pressure ratings. “That’s when the BHRJPB started exploring other alternatives and where FLOWTITE’s fiberglass pipe better fit the application,” says Jeff LeBlanc, engineering manager at Thompson Pipe Group, the current manufacturer of FLOWTITE™ in North America.

FLOWTITE is corrosion resistant and can handle fluids at elevated temperatures. In addition, the GFRP piping can accommodate water pressures exceeding 200 pounds per square inch (psi), in part because of its special inner resin lining. It allows the water to flow freely without lowering the pressure rating. Other pipe materials are unable to handle high water pressure, therefore requiring a pumping station to help increase pressure. Eliminating the pumping station saved the joint powers board $250,000 in construction costs.

Timely delivery proved to be the main challenge on this project, says LeBlanc, who worked with the previous manufacturer of FLOWTITE on the Northern Supply Pipeline. The pipes were manufactured using filament winding at the company’s plant near Baton Rouge, La. They were shipped in 40-foot sections – nearly 1,200 pieces – from Louisiana to Wyoming on open deck trucks. Once in Wyoming, sections of pipe were spread out along the 15-mile line and assembled. The installation took approximately five months and did not disturb any residents, since it occurred on the outskirts of towns.