Velocity Water Services Blog

A proactive maintenance approach increases the reliability of the water distribution system (WDS). Instead of addressing maintenance issues as they arise, problems are mitigated using asset insights to predict issues before they occur. The reactive approach or Run-To-Failure (RTF) mindset is far more costly and increases the risk of contamination or disruption to service.  

With proper planning and regularly scheduled maintenance steps such as Hydrant Maintenance, Fire Hydrant Inspection, Fire Flow Testing, and Flushing and Valve Maintenance, you not only reduce costs but also avoid unexpected liabilities that lead to severe budget challenges. Here we compare cost savings for proactive vs reactive maintenance/repairs. 

Proactive vs Reactive Maintenance/Repair Costs 

Because reactive maintenance lacks foresight and planning, its costs increase over time. It also allows serious issues to develop, leading to unexpected costs in the future. The fact that reactive maintenance services appear to cost less when only considering present issues without investing in forward-thinking maintenance is very misleading.  

Inevitably it costs an average of two to five times more to practice reactive maintenance than it does to adopt a proactive method. Predictive maintenance reduces downtime, strategically reduces costs, and improves the safety and performance of the WDS. Benefits include: 

  • Extending the life of WDS components 
  • Optimizing water distribution efficiency 
  • Reducing water waste 
  • Reduced service interruptions to the municipality, residents, and businesses 
  • Better budget planning for parts and labour 
  • Decreasing the frequency of minor repairs 
  • Improved health and safety compliance and water quality 
  • Reduced emergency calls 
  • Continuous service 
  • The efficiency of labour distribution 
  • Proper hydrant pressure to reduce fire-related costs, including property insurance 

While a WDS Preventive Maintenance program has an initial up-front cost, it provides cost savings year over year, optimizing your budget for future maintenance and upgrades. 

Proactive WDS Maintenance Strategy 

A proactive maintenance strategy avoids the repercussions of performing reactive maintenance using an RTF model. Using a reactive maintenance approach is not uncommon to unintentionally waste time and money, not to mention water. A review of past costs associated with RTF practices and the initial costs of a proactive maintenance program is the best way to fathom the actual cost savings. Programs include annual flushing to remove stagnant water and periodic internal inspections of consumable components to prevent failure. For example, our team has found that 18.5% of hydrants are either out of service or have significant deficiencies. Because fire hydrants consist of multiple O-rings and other components that wear out over time, prevention through proactive maintenance mitigates the risk of failure of these consumable components. 

Implementing annual flushing removes stagnant water, while periodic internal inspections identify component erosion. Repairs and replacements are made before a catastrophic event occurs, avoiding unexpected costs and hydrant failure during an emergency. Inspection, maintenance, and repair ensure your WDS complies with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requirements and Provincial Fire Codes. Maintenance programs also provide deficiency reports with repairs prioritized based on the potential impact of failure and urgency. 

Recommended Proactive Maintenance Procedures 

To improve your maintenance protocol, you can introduce the following WDS maintenance procedures: 

Fire Flow Testing 

Fire Flow Testing determines the pressure and flow-producing capabilities of water mains within the distribution system. It also assesses the general condition of the WDS. When serious issues such as heavy tuberculation or wall deposits are identified, repair schedules are prioritized based on the level of damage. You can determine the quantity and rate of water flow for firefighting at various locations within the distribution system.   

Testing also indicates weak points in an existing water distribution system or newly designed extensions. According to NFPA 291 4.13.1, public fire hydrants should be fire flow tested every five years to verify the capacity and marking of the hydrant.  The NFPA 291 4.13.2 states flushing at least once a year is necessary to verify operation, address repairs, and demonstrate reliability.   

Valve Maintenance 

The valves throughout a WDS are unseen, meaning your WDS requires a purposeful inspection to discover issues.  When valves are not operated regularly, the risk of them not opening and closing properly increases over time. In fact, 41% of water valves are inoperable. Valve maintenance ensures each valve in the system is scheduled to operate through a full cycle and returned to its normal position. This process prevents the buildup of tuberculation, scale, and mineral deposits. A comprehensive valve exercise program and inspection will: 

  • Reduce water loss and property damage 
  • Keep all valves operable, clean, and free of debris  
  • Reduce incidents where customers are without potable supply  
  • Save costs related to an RTF mentality    
  • Provide insights into repair, rehab, or replacement needs 
  • Improve emergency response planning   

The program keeps valves operational, ensuring the continuous supply of safe drinking and emergency water. The program also ensures that newly installed valves meet or exceed their maximum life expectancy. 

Uni-directional Flushing 

An asset management program using Uni-directional Flushing (UDF) offers long-term benefits and cost savings. A utility asset condition assessment determines the maintenance required to achieve your cost-saving goals. It reduces water waste and provides a more effective method to clean the pipe network. UDF is a water-efficient method of cleaning water distribution pipes to improve water quality and restore capacity. It completely removes the sediment, corrosion products, and biofilm from pipes yet uses 40% less water.  

When you implement an effective UDF program, you will reduce the risk of spending your entire water main replacement budget on more effective repairs and replacements. Costs associated with flushing are far lower than the steps required when tuberculation builds to the point it cannot be removed by flushing. You prolong the life of valves, discover broken valves and hydrants, and locate closed valves and obstructions while confirming or disproving suspected system issues. 

Municipal Fire Hydrants Inspection 

Fire hydrant inspection using hydrant flushing identifies specific hydrants, distribution systems, and water quality issues. It contributes to your proactive maintenance schedule to optimize your fire hydrants. Inspection also avoids unexpected costs associated with reactive maintenance. It can be done as part of or independent of a UDF program. The inspection also provides infrastructure condition assessment data for valuable insights into maintenance needs. 

Although you might have unintentionally set a precedent of reactive maintenance with an RTF mindset, it is never too late to adopt a more cost-effective proactive approach. At Velocity Water Services, we offer comprehensive WDS proactive maintenance programs allowing you to leverage cost savings for repairs and replacements. Speak to our team today!