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Issue Background

Water & Plumbing Research

The IAPMO Group supports Federal and State efforts to advance fundamental plumbing knowledge, including examining the impacts of pipe sizing changes and thermal insulation (pipe insulation) will have on energy and water use. Legislation that advances water research should be inclusive of demand management or plumbing research.

As part of its finding, a recent report to Congress by the National Institute of Building Sciences Report identified plumbing research as critical to advancing water and energy efficiency efforts. The IAPMO Group strongly supports efforts to have NIST reestablish the Plumbing Research Program and begin the research needed to modernize modern water pipe sizing requirements for commercial and high-rise residential buildings contained in the nation’s plumbing codes. This is a very complex issue that necessitates government leadership but it would result in ongoing energy and water efficiencies in every building constructed with right-sized plumbing systems for the entire life of the building.

The federal government also needs to support desperately needed research on the unintended consequences of water efficiency. There are three specific concerns:

  • Reducing the amount of water flowing through supply lines could increase the risks posed by bacteria in the system. There is a need for better measurement of the amount of time drinking water remains within water utility distribution systems and water supply lines in buildings in order to assess the potential danger that raising water efficiency could reduce disinfection levels.
  • Reducing hot water temperatures in the system could create an environment for pathogens, such as Legionella. Current mandates within plumbing codes reduce hot water temperatures in plumbing systems in order to reduce scalding incidences and to save energy. However, this potentially creates an environment for opportunistic pathogens to grow in hot water pipes. There is a need to determine the best mitigation strategies and technologies to provide for both safety and efficiency. 
  • Reducing the flow of water in the pipes could increase problems with drain blockages and corrosion. Reduced flows from toilets, other plumbing fixtures and appliances within sanitary plumbing systems are increasing the likelihood of building drain blockages and failures resulting from corrosion due to decreased quantities of water in the drain pipes. Several research projects currently underway in the United States, notably by the Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC), will help to determine “how low we can go” without negatively impacting public health and safety. Phase 1 of the PERC research, which was funded entirely by the private sector, is now complete. As a result, the U.S. EPA WaterSense® program has decided to move forward with a new specification for high-efficiency commercial toilets.

The Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC) was formed on January 6, 2009 when five prominent organizations signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU created a collaborative network to advance plumbing research initiatives pertaining to water efficiency. Click HERE to learn more.