2017 Progress Report: 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 , Tulane University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2019 (Extended to March 31, 2021)
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 1, 2016 through September 30,2017
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 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 water quality 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 water quality through fate and transport simulation models for residential and commercial buildings.

(3) Create a risk-based decision support tool to help guide decision makers through the identification of premise plumbing characteristics along with operations and maintenance practices that minimize health risks to building inhabitants.

Progress Summary:

To evaluate the drivers of low-flow in water distribution and premise plumbing systems to establish theoretical ranges as inputs into the hydraulic-water quality models, a bibliography was prepared. This bibliography emphasizes applied research that delves into the issue of declining usage in the water sector, including both a top-down perspective based on overall usage patterns and a bottom-up perspective based on particular end uses and the standards affecting them. The bibliography is organized as follows:

  • Resources on Declining Water Usage.
  • Resources on Water Usage in Homes and Buildings.
  • Resources on Green Buildings and Water Efficiency.
  • Resources on Codes and Zoning.

To refine our literature review on water trends, we conducted an Industry stakeholder workshop at Purdue University on Aug 23 and 24, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. This workshop was focused on filling knowledge-gaps with our Partners. Our international collaborators also provided a unique perspective about low-flow and premise water quality challenges in their countries. Involvement of our partnering corporations, nonprofit organizations, states, municipalities and utilities is a major part of this grant. The purpose of this meeting was for all partners to provide feedback into the research project’s scope and direction. The desired outcomes were for the Plumbing Safety team to 1) Gain feedback regarding available data to inform the literature review and modeling; 2) Solicit input on unpublished water use trends and conservation drivers; and 3) Identify community research questions regarding water conservation and its water quality impact. The workshop was conducted using a series of breakout groups to identify challenges to the participants, prioritize the challenges in terms of their importance to public health and safety. Feedback was also received from participants about the desired characteristics of the decision support tool that the team will create as part of this project.

Site visits were conducted to the LEED Platinum office building and the LEED middle school. At both buildings, the Purdue team met with building managers, maintenance and operations staff, inspected the plumbing, and water sampling locations were selected. On August 24, the team began drinking water sampling at the Retrofitted Net-Zero Energy, Water and Waste (ReNEWW) house. Water samples were collected for initial microbiological characterizations by MSU, Tulane, and Purdue. These results have helped the team understand potential ranges for methods used to calibrate the upcoming full-scale water testing effort. The pilot facility has begun construction to include the installation of floor drains. Pilot-facility experiments will be tentatively designed in the coming months. Though, conduct of these experiments is not expected to begin until questions arise from the field sampling activities.

Future Activities:

In the coming year, our team plans to:

  1. Continue water sampling of the ReNEWW house, begin water sampling at a few of the commercial buildings we have identified (schools, offices, institutions).
  2. Prepare a summary of the August 2017 industry stakeholders workshop,
  3. Begin to develop the integrative water quality-hydraulic model to be used for predicting water quality at the single-family residential building.
  4. Present results at several international and national conferences.
  5. Prepare results from water testing at buildings and submit them for public release and publication.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 11 publications 1 publications in selected types All 1 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Salehi M, Abouali M, Wang M, Zhou Z, Negadhashemi AP, Mitchell J, Caskey S, Whelton AJ. Case study: fixture water use and drinking water quality in a new residential green building. Chemosphere 2018;195:80-89. R836890 (2017)
R836890 (2018)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: ScienceDirect-Full Text-HTML
  • Abstract: ScienceDirect-Abstract
  • Other: ScienceDirect-Full Text-PDF
  • Relevant Websites:

    Purdue University Center for Plumbing Safety Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2018 Progress Report