Interim Report

Team Number: 044
School Name: Cuba High School
Area of Science: Environmental
Project Title: The Pipe Crisis
Project Abstract: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/abstracts/044.html
Interim Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/interims/044.html
Final Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/finalreports/044/finalreport.html

Cuba is a rural town in northwestern New Mexico. In the summer of 1997, pipes in the town of Cuba broke due to erosion of the soil beneath the pipes and subsequent stress on the pipes. This resulted in a loss of water in the town for a few days. The project that is being addressed by this group is to discover what factors influenced the breakage and if the combination of those factors can be used to determine if and when future pipes will break. In order to determine the breakage of future pipes, a formula relating the erosion to the amount of stress the pipes can handle is being developed.

The breakage that occurred in the pipes was caused by rainfall eroding the soil away from beneath the pipes and the resulting stress causing a break. No rock bed was laid beneath the pipes when the system was first installed and that seems to be the main cause of the erosion problem.

This project was delayed for a time when misinformation regarding the type of water pipe system led to a great amount of research that ultimately proved to be superfluous. Transite pipes made of PVC and asbestos were mistakenly believed to be the main pipes used in the water system. Eventually, it was determined that the transite pipes actually in use are double layered clay pipe with asbestos in between the clay. The asbestos in the pipe when the pipe broke is a cause for health concerns. At this time, ongoing research into the various hazards this may represent is in progress.

New 8 inch PVC pipe has been in place for ten years, however, no users have been connected to these new lines, so everyone is still using the older 6 inch transite pipes, which have outlived their normal life span. This is also one of the reasons that the pipes are not holding up under the pressure as they should.

The group is in contact with the Grant Administrator of the City of Cuba, Maryhelen DeMasters. Ms. DeMasters has given the group a great amount of very helpful information for the program that will be devised. During the whole water problem situation during the summer, Ms. DeMasters represented the City of Cuba during press interviews, public meetings, and other happenings pertaining to the water system and its problems.

More research on soil structure and composition is needed for the project. The soil saturation factor also needs to be investigated along with average precipitation. So far there has been conflicting information given from various officials concerning the above mentioned.

The project’s program will focus on determining where the next break in the pipes will occur. The program will make use of a formula relating soil erosion and the resulting stress on the pipes. This will project a timeline for work crews so that pipes can be repaired before they malfunction. The program will be written in C++ with the help of Mr. Chris Bandy. The project is satisfactorily coming along at this point in time.


Foreman, Isabel. "Water Problems Flow At Cuba’s New Plant", Albuquerque Journal. May 17, 1987, p 1-2 Section C.

DeMasters, Maryhelen, Grant Administrator for the City of Cuba. Interview. 15 Nov 97-20 Dec 97.

"Cuba Water Status", Cuba News. August 15 1997, pp. 1, 23.

Team Members:

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Project Advisor:

New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge