Bucharest's hot water pipes are cracking under pressure

BUCHAREST, Oct 15 (Reuters) - On a rainy Tuesday in October, Miruna Nicolaescu was heating water on her kitchen stove for a shower, one of thousands of Bucharest residents left without hot running water because the city’s decrepit pipes keep bursting.

“My reaction was, not again, I can’t do this any more,” said Nicolaescu, 34, who works in cinema production and is regularly without hot water for days on end.

“It is the same reason every time, the pipes are a disaster, they break and the repairs take a long time.”

Romania has some of the European Union’s least developed infrastructure due to poor administration, corruption and bureaucracy, despite years of strong economic growth and billions of euros available in EU funding.

With public patience wearing thin, infrastructure problems are likely to be a major factor in a general election on Dec. 6, when the Social Democrats could lose their parliamentary majority after four years of instability and lack of investment.

Bucharest’s hot water was an issue in local elections in September, when independent Nicusor Dan - backed by centre-right parties - ousted Social Democrat mayor Gabriela Firea on a promise to focus on city works.

There is a lot of work to do. Most of the pipes, which deliver hot water to more than two thirds of Bucharest’s households and thousands of public institutions, are about 50 years old.

Waste due to leaks is causing massive costs for city hall. New mayor Dan said that only about 100 km of pipes had been replaced in the last two or three decades.

He told Reuters that about 1,000 km of main pipelines need to be replaced, which will take 6 or 7 years and cost 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion).

In the meantime, Dan said Bucharest residents could expect 15 to 20 pipe malfunctions every day this winter. (Editing by Giles Elgood)