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System Impacts

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O&M Impact

An environmentally conscious water upgrade can reduce potable water, wastewater discharge, and energy bills by lowering resource consumption. These benefits are diminished if the system is not well maintained. Leaks from faulty fixtures and piping drastically increase water consumption. Auditing and commissioning the water system and creating an equivalent water management plan are essential to achieving sustained performance moving forward.

On average, ten percent of the total water supplied by utility companies is lost due to leakage within the building.1 Identifying leaks early prevents potential damage or water pressure loss in the system. Leaks can occur at any point where a tight connection, due to faulty gaskets, washers or other fixings, is lost. Leaks occur both inside and outside the building where the water source is flowing and under pressure, including pipes, irrigation systems, water fixtures, or cooling equipment. Monitoring water flow near components will help identify when pressure abnormalities occur.

1. Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG): Water Conservation2. Department of Water Resources – California Government

Water contaminants in mechanical process equipment can form deposits, scales, or carryover if not properly expelled through blow-down. These deposits result in a less-efficient system and can lead to corrosion in the pipes and fittings, ultimately leading to costly replacements. Ensure accurate functionality and calibration of blow-down or bleed-off components and monitor contaminant levels using conductivity meters. Cooling tower and cooling coil life and performance can be enhanced through careful prevention and removal of build-up. Chemical treatment and alternative water treatment (AWT) technologies control scale buildup and increase cycles of concentration.

Water components can eventually drift out of spec and begin to not perform up to standards. Automatic sensor faucet valves, if not functioning properly, can relay a constant flow or no water at all – becoming a disservice to occupants.  Automatic sensors should be periodically calibrated to maintain the correct time duration, water temperature, and flow rate. Diaphragm flush valves on high efficiency toilets and urinals can be inadvertently retrofitted with higher rated valves. The plumbing engineer should ensure that the inventory of flush valves matches the existing rated diaphragm valves.  Consider replacing diaphragm valves with piston valves.  

Provide an easy to follow and convenient platform for building occupants to report noticeable leaks, malfunctions, or complaints about the water system to maintain the desired functionality of the system and portray a sense of ownership for the occupants. Establishing a dedicated hotline will reduce maintenance turn-around times and growing water loses.

Best Practices and Strategies

Follow recommended O&M measures in FEMP's Water Efficiency BMPs. Check faucet and fixture washers and gaskets for wear and replace them if necessary. Ensure tight connections using pipe tape and wrenches, and check faucet washers and gaskets for wear; replace as needed.
Inspect irrigation systems and outdoor water components at the beginning of the irrigation season to make sure no damage arose due to frost or freezing; repair broken and misaligned nozzles. Read conductivity and flow meters regularly to quickly identify problems and record any trends. Install meters in different areas or zones of the water system to monitor flow rates.
Consider instituting cathodic protection for metal components such as pipes and tanks to control corrosion. Consider water consumption when maintaining landscape. Avoid using water to clean sidewalks, parking lots, or other hardscapes. Use mulch and sufficient topsoil that capture water sources for longer periods of time. Establish a user-friendly method to report leaks or malfunctions.