Right Sizing Tomorrow's Water Systems for Efficiency, Sustainability, and Public Health

EPA Grant Number: R836890
Title: Right Sizing Tomorrow's Water Systems for Efficiency, Sustainability, and Public Health
Investigators: Whelton, Andrew J , Beecher, Janice , Lee, Juneseok , Mitchell, Jade , Nejadhashemi, Amirpouyan , Rose, Joan B.
Institution: Purdue University , Michigan State University , San Jose State University
Current Institution: Purdue University , Michigan State University , San Jose State University , Tulane University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2019 (Extended to March 31, 2021)
Project Amount: $1,989,000
RFA: National Priorities: Impacts of Water Conservation on Water Quality in Premise Plumbing and Water Distribution Systems (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water


The project goal is to better understand and predict water quality (WQ) and health risks posed by declining water usage and low flows. Our hypotheses focus on (i) testing the predictability of integrated water distribution system-premise plumbing models the project team develops and calibrates for residential and commercial buildings; (ii) identifying the most significant determinant(s) of tap WQ in these systems; and (iii) identifying water system design and operational conditions that pose increased human health risks. Project objectives are to: (1) Improve the public’s understanding of decreased flow and establish a range of theoretical premise plumbing flow demands from the scientific literature and expert elicitation with our strategic Partners; (2) Elucidate the factors and their interactions that affect WQ through fate and transport simulation models for residential and commercial buildings; and (3) Create a risk-based decision support tool to help guide decision makers through the identification of premise plumbing characteristics, operations and maintenance practices that minimize health risks to building inhabitants.


With strategic partnerships and two workshops, an extensive literature review on water conservation trends, low-flow drivers and decision support will be created. Through full-scale testing of a state-of-the-art, continuously monitored, Whirlpool residential home and a LEED office building, predictive water quality premise plumbing models will be developed and calibrated. Chemical and microbiological behaviors of more complex systems will be examined through full- and pilot-scale testing (2 additional LEED and a 16 story legacy building). Quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) will be conducted using WQ model simulation results.

Expected Results:

The project will develop new knowledge that provides a better understanding of premise WQ and health risks posed by low flows. Developed models will be able to be scaled for other premise plumbing designs, operational conditions, and water distribution inputs. Simulations and scenario testing will be used to predict microbial concentrations for human health risk assessment. ‘Higher risk’ water delivery system designs and operations will be identified. A multi-tiered, web-based decision support system that integrates the literature review, testing, and modeling will be created. Outcomes will enable better risk management and establish a foundation for future advancements in more complex, efficient, sustainable and health protective potable water systems.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 11 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Residual, Hydraulic residence times, EPANET, Water demand, Plastic Pipes, Pathogens, QMRA

Relevant Websites:

Center for Plumbing Safety - Purdue University Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2017 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report