EPA Sponsoring Research on Drinking Water Quality in Premise Plumbing

EPA recently announced approximately $4 million in funding to two universities to research water quality issues related to low flow conditions of drinking water in premise plumbing systems.  As water conservation efforts become more common and water shortages have occurred in some parts of the country, the use of low-flow plumbing fixtures, such as faucets, toilets, and showerheads, has increased.  The use of these fixtures combined with population decreases in some locations, has led to lower water demands.  Decreases in water consumption result in lower flows of water through water system pipes that were designed to manage higher flows, which may negatively impact water quality. Waterborne disease outbreaks can occur due to issues within premise plumbing systems, emphasizing the importance of this research.
As low-flow plumbing fixtures become more prevalent and lower flows in drinking water distribution systems result, so does the need for better designed, renovated, and managed distribution systems so that water can be delivered efficiently while protecting public health.  This research will provide a greater understanding of health risks associated with low flows.  The awardees will create methods, tools, and models to help design plumbing systems that will ensure appropriate flows and water pressures while delivering clean drinking water at actual consumption levels.
Grants are being awarded to the following universities:
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Penn., is developing a database of premise water conditions and associated health parameters.  Predictive models will use the information from the database to identify the risks involved with failing to meet water quality goals for premise plumbing.  The models will be part of a tool that will identify high risk conditions for water quality and potential remedial actions.
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., is conducting research on home and LEED office buildings to develop integrated water quality models and identify piping network design and operational conditions that can decrease health risks.  The models will be part of a tool that will help identify premise plumbing characteristics, operations, and maintenance practices that minimize health risks to those who live or work in the building.
For more information about these grants see www.epa.gov/research-grants/water-research-grants.