Water Management Programs Frequently Asked Questions

Incidents of human illness and fatality due to pathogens in industrial, commercial and municipal water systems are increasingly prevalent in the news. Although it is not required by law throughout the U.S., practicing a water management program in accordance with the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2015 demonstrates the value of a safe and healthy environment, as well as protects your facility from potential legal disputes or brand damage caused by waterborne pathogen outbreaks. We asked our water treatment experts to share a few of their most frequently asked customer questions regarding water management and safety programs.

What is a water management program?

According to the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard, a water management program is defined as “the risk management plan for the prevention and control of legionellosis associated with building water systems, including documentation of the plan’s implementation and operation.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expands upon that to explain that water management plans identify hazardous conditions and take steps to minimize the growth and spread of Legionella and other waterborne pathogens in building water systems. More information on developing and implementing a water management program is outlined in the ASHRAE Standard.

The development of a water management program involves several technical disciplines including mechanical and civil engineering, plumbing, infection control, industrial hygiene and risk management. U.S. Water recommends our customers use a qualified, independent consultant as the primary developer, if they choose not to do it themselves. At the customer’s request, we will work closely with the water management team to contribute our level of water treatment expertise during development, support the plan once developed, and provide secondary disinfection technologies and services when needed.

How do I determine the risk level in my facility?

As every property is different, work with U.S. Water to evaluate your building’s waterborne pathogen risk. Many factors within the building water system can promote waterborne pathogen growth including biofilm and scale, fluctuations in water temperatures and pH, changes in water pressure and water stagnation. Survey the water systems and modes of transmission such as cooling towers, showers, hot tubs or fountains, and the building’s outdoor environment.  Check various locations throughout the building water system for residual disinfectant such as chlorine, noting temperature, pH and disinfection levels for both hot and cold water. Discuss the building’s population - what is the potential for aerosolized mist exposure? It’s also important to review the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard section on risk assessment to identify the types of buildings that have higher risk levels, as well as your state’s health department requirements.

Should I test for Legionella?

After determining the building’s risk, the property can determine whether testing is appropriate. U.S. Water can help you identify sample locations and collect samples. It’s important to note that if the property decides to test for Legionella, they must to be committed to taking the necessary remediation actions if results are positive. Developing your water management program ahead of sampling your systems will give you guidance on how to respond to positive Legionella cultures if they occur.

If Legionella is detected, how do I treat for it?

There are a variety of cleaning and disinfection options available to reduce the potential for bacteria amplification and biofilm growth.  Maintaining a consistent disinfection residual and eliminating stagnant water conditions are two of the most effective means of decreasing problematic organisms. 

To treat building water systems, some facilities, such as healthcare, are increasingly turning to secondary disinfection of their potable water system within the boundaries of the building itself. Consult with U.S. Water to determine what’s appropriate for your facility. 

What is secondary disinfection?

Water coming into your facility from the public water supply has already been disinfected.  With secondary disinfection, the water is disinfected again at the point of entry to the building, hence the term secondary disinfection. This treatment option is used to further minimize the risk of a waterborne pathogen outbreak.

I’d like to implement a secondary disinfection system, where do I start?

Each state will have its own interpretation of what’s required when a facility makes the decision to place a secondary disinfection system on either cold or hot potable water, and there are several secondary disinfectants approved by the United States Department of the Environment (USEPA). A complete site survey with U.S. Water can help you determine the appropriate technology for your facility. If the facility is classed as a consecutive public water system, certification and training will be required.

How do I know if my system is in compliance with regulations?

If your facility implements a secondary disinfection program, the process must be reviewed and approved by the state regulatory department involved in water safety. This will be either the state health department or the state department of the environment. It will be the regulatory agency’s role to direct and insure your secondary disinfection program meets any applicable regulations for potable water.

Once my facility has secondary disinfection in place, how long should we implement the program?

Secondary disinfection treatment, as well as testing, should be on-going and compliant with the water management program. If your facility has multiple buildings, be consistent with your control measures throughout. Since there is always a risk of waterborne pathogens, we recommend a proactive approach to mitigating those risks through development and implementation of a comprehensive water management program.  By consistently monitoring and documenting your facility’s water quality parameters, you can ensure the water systems are operating as they should to minimize hazardous conditions.

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