Low-flow water systems have been praised for reducing water usage and conserving resources, but low-flow building water systems designed to conserve water pose potential health hazards because they may cause an increase in disease-causing organisms and harmful chemicals, says Emil Venere at Phys.org. Now, scientists at Purdue University are looking to solve the problem through an EPA-funded project. Venere writes:
Building plumbing in the United States has been trending toward low-flow rates to conserve water, going from 4 gallons per minute in 1994 to 0.5 gpm in today's systems. However, while the flow rates have been reduced, the diameter of the plumbing pipes has not, causing water to age in the pipes.
"In low-flow systems, we have discovered that the water that reaches your faucet is going to be much older by the time it gets to you," said Whelton, who described the problem during a recent conference, Dawn or Doom '16, at Purdue.
"The increasing occurrence of low flows in water distribution systems and building plumbing presents an emerging health concern. Opportunistic pathogens more easily multiply under low-flow conditions," said Andrew Whelton, an assistant professor in Environmental and Ecological Engineering and the Lyles School of Civil Engineering. "Building designers, managers, and health officials need better information and models to predict health risks in plumbing systems found in all sorts of buildings, from schools, to homes, to health-care facilities."
"Health risks in residential and commercial buildings caused by pathogen proliferation must be minimized through water infrastructure design, operation and maintenance decisions, and codes," he continued.