Find The Opportunity In Your Building Water Systems

Strike a balance between water safety and efficiency with a comprehensive water management program.

By Michael P., Doyle, P.E., LEED AP and Monica Keil
From the August 2020 Issue

Water safety is a major concern for facility management and building owners. Safety issues related to water include diseases from biological hazards such as Legionella and Mycobacterium; chemical hazards such as lead, copper, and disinfection by-products; and physical hazards such as scalding. Water safety in and around a building impacts both potable (sinks, showers) and non-potable (cooling towers, decorative water features, irrigation) water systems.

Maintaining safety in building water systems must be an intentional, integral part of the facility operations. Industry guidance such as ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2018, Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems and the CDC Legionella Toolkit recommend the implementation of a safety-oriented Water Management Program (WMP) as the best practice for managing the risks associated with building water systems.

In addition to safety, a WMP can be leveraged for efficiency in potable and non-potable water systems. This is when a Comprehensive Water Management Program (CWMP) can be created. There is tremendous opportunity to look at safety and efficiency together—both are crucial to the optimal operation of a building water system. Efficiency opportunities also represent potential cost savings that can offset the expense of safety measures.

water safety
Image 1 (Source: Phigenics)

Image 1 (right) illustrates the tenuous relationship between water safety and water efficiency and how it must remain in balance. The balance beam represents the cost of operations. Facility management is at the fulcrum with the burdens of using water efficiently (on left) and using water safely (on right). As shown graphically, this situation is inherently unstable. Facility managers cannot sacrifice safety for efficiency, nor effectively improve efficiency but sacrifice safety. A CWMP can help to optimize cost while improving both safety and efficiency.

An equilibrium between water safety and efficiency can be achieved by following the “7 Steps of a Water Management Program” as defined in industry standards. As shown in Image 2 (below), efficiency opportunities and cost optimization can be incorporated into the framework of a CWMP.

water safety
Image 2 (Source: Phigenics)

First, discuss goals with the organization’s leadership. This will ensure program goals are in alignment with organizational goals. Next, address strategies for measuring performance. Efficiency and safety opportunities should be identified, quantified, and control parameters established in steps 4 and 5. When in step 4 and analyzing water systems for safety and efficiency, it is appropriate to ask three questions.

  1. What is the opportunity or potential opportunity at each processing step?
  2. Is the optimization significant; is there significant potential for the efficiency gain/opportunity; can it be done safely?
  3. What control is being applied (or could be applied) at the processing step to achieve the desired result?

Opportunities for improved efficiency that can lead to potential cost savings can be found in many areas.

Non-potable water systems opportunities include:

  • Evaluating and optimizing water treatment strategies to potentially reduce chemical costs and optimize system performance
  • Assessing cooling tower operations to reduce water and sewer costs
  • Simple operational changes to reduce fuel consumption for steam production
  • Validate chiller efficiency to ensure not decreased by water performance issues
  • Benchmarking costs for steam generation and cooling water systems to ensure optimization

Performance Benchmarks: How much should it cost to treat cooling water? Between $1.00-$1.50 per thousand gallons of make up for: All Chemicals; All Testing; All Equipment; and All Service.

Therefore, for 12,000,000 gallons of water, water treatment expense should be $12,000-$18,000.

Performance Benchmarks: How much should it cost to treat a steam system? About $1.00 annually for every lb. of steam per hour produced for: All Chemicals; All Testing; All Equipment; and All Service.

So, a 10,000 lb./hr. boiler should cost about $10,000 annually to treat.

Meanwhile, the opportunities for efficiency in potable water systems include:

  • Optimizing point of use filtration strategy
  • Supplemental disinfection evaluation and selection (chlorine, chloramines, copper-silver, ozone, etc.)
  • Improper use of softened water can result in safety, corrosion, and health concerns.

Maintaining The CWMP

To track efficiency and safety opportunities, a cloud-based data management system should be utilized by facility management with program oversight from independent water management consultants. Such a system tracks efficiency and safety opportunities; it also empowers teams to collaborate, document, verify program performance, and validate program effectiveness. Performance indicators needed in the system include: KPI management, system analysis, notifications, and validation response guidance.

Verification—defined as evidence that the CWMP is implemented as designed—is critical to optimizing cost savings while improving water safety and efficiency. A verification strategy can improve facility management productivity, operating procedures, and preventive maintenance across potable and non-potable water systems. These collective CWMP outcomes result in improved defensibility for the organization.

Validation is also necessary to optimize cost savings while improving water safety and efficiency. Validation provides evidence of program effectiveness. A validation strategy includes testing of hazard control levels at distal locations throughout the water system and should include a validation response.

A comprehensive water management program provides a framework for a delicate but achievable balance of water safety and water efficiency (with potential cost savings) for facility management. By implementing a CWMP, facilities professionals can implement safety and operation improvements that were not previously possible.

Michael P., Doyle, P.E., LEED APWith more than 30 years of construction, facilities, and utilities management experience, Doyle is vice president of operations and principal for Phigenics, an independent water management company. He has a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the Naval Academy and a Master’s in Construction Management from Penn State. Doyle first served in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer before transferring to the Navy Civil Engineer Corps. He served in facilities and construction management positions and retired as a Captain after 27 years in the Navy. He then worked as a program manager and principal for a general contractor managing a portfolio of construction/renovation work at Langley Air Force Base. At Phigenics, he has helped grow the company from a dozen people to over 130 employees.

Monica KeilKeil is the director of marketing and training at Phigenics, and in this role she is responsible for the training and development of the company’s employees. Prior to joining Phigenics, Keil worked extensively in the water treatment industry. She has over 18 years of experience in the industrial water treatment and water purification industries. She has also held roles in business operations and project management, specifically focusing on water treatment and purification equipment. Kiel has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Trine University in Angola IN.

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