Helping Utilities Protect the Quality of Water
in the Distribution System
The water distribution system is rightly called the “last frontier” in water quality
protection. With some one million miles of buried water lines in the United States
and another six million miles of premise plumbing, the distribution system is vast and
complex. It is the last place finished water touches before it reaches consumers, and
it is the least studied element of our water infrastructure.
While the general public takes safe, affordable drinking water for granted, for water
industry professionals, this underground empire is hardly out of sight, out of mind. In recent years, utilities and regulators have
renewed their interest in distribution system water quality (DSWQ). Concerns over waterborne disease, infrastructure security,
leaks, metals leaching, and chloramine decay have spurred a new focus on the topic.
Since 1985, the Water Research Foundation has sponsored or co-sponsored a number of research studies addressing
various aspects of DSWQ. These include research on chloramines, distribution system nitrification, real-time monitoring of
contaminants, premise plumbing water quality changes, and biofilms. The body of existing and ongoing Foundation research,
much of it done in collaboration with other national and international water utility research institutions, is highlighted in this
special newsletter edition.
The Foundation has further strengthened its research efforts through the Strategic Research Initiative on DSWQ,
established by the Board of Trustees in 2007. This multi-year, multi-project approach will sponsor $1 million worth of
research each year into DSWQ. The outcome: valuable, practical information and tools. We will focus on understanding
premise plumbing water quality changes; defining and measuring multiple barriers to ensure DSWQ; and filling in the
gaps in our knowledge of chloramines.
In tandem, the Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have signed a memorandum of
understanding to jointly undertake research and information collection in this important area. This partnership will serve as a
source of research ideas as the Foundation proceeds with planning research, including that of the DSWQ strategic initiative.
We will keep you and your organization up to date on our ongoing DSWQ research through reports, Webcasts, the Web site,
David E. Rager
Chair, Board of Trustees
Robert C. Renner, P.E., D.E.E.