Editor's Log: Best Guesses & Fingers Crossed

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | January 2013, Vol. 68, No. 1

Gas distribution contractors have found themselves busy dealing with integrity management, replacement and rehabilitation work throughout this recession cycle. While there has been limited new installation work, it has not impacted these contractors. The good news is that the maintenance work will continue. The concern, coming mainly from owners, is that when new installation finally becomes significant again, contractors will be stretched to find enough skilled labor to handle both maintenance and new installations. Add to the mix the potential years of work needed to repair the devastation to the gas and electric grid in the Northeast from Hurricane Sandy, and the workload looks imposing indeed. Things could get very interesting for the gas distribution market in the near future.

What can you say about a market largely void of the necessary revenue required to meet its critical needs and its best hope for relief lies in hoping an essentially broke Federal government will come to the rescue? But that’s where we find the sewer, water and storm water market going into 2013.

On the bright side, the rehabilitation market should experience even stronger years ahead as cities turn to band-aids to fix immediate, dangerous or EPA-mandated problems. Not only is that good news for those currently in the rehab market, but it also forces cities and consulting engineers to become more familiar and comfortable with rehabilitation technology and its effectiveness, even when the overall sewer and water market does recover. The future of rehab continues to be very positive.

But for now, larger projects and systems that need to be replaced, updated or expanded are simply being ignored. We were already dangerously behind that work curve before the recession and each year since 2008 has seen our country’s infrastructure plight only grow worse.

The best guess for sewer/water in 2013 is another flat year. However, we are getting indications that municipalities are feeling a little more comfortable about releasing (rather than hoarding) available monies in 2013.

In 2013, we’ll see a mixed bag of economic success for the underground construction industry. I can finally see a light – it’s just still far down the tunnel.