Potable water pipes – house installations in public and commercial facilities

Potable water installation – potable water pipe – house installation: What is meant?

All these terms refer to the pipes and systems within a public, commercial or private building that store, transport or heat potable water. The decisive factor here is that the responsibility for the potable water system changes the moment the water flows into the building. From here on, it is no longer the water supplier who is responsible for the water quality and maintenance of the pipes and systems, but the owner, landlord or operator. In Germany the water suppliers can therefore only guarantee the consumer an excellent quality of potable water up to the building’s entrance.

What does public or commerical building mean?

Public building
Potable water is provided as part of a “public activity”*.
For example: schools, kindergartens, sports and leisure facilities, hospitals, senior and care facilities, cultural and educational institutions.
The decisive factor is that there are changing users.

Commercial building
Potable water is provided as part of a “commercial activity”*.
For example: apartment buildings, supermarkets, shopping centres, hotels, office buildings

Some buildings or potable water installations can therefore also be subject to both activities; these are then treated like public buildings (e.g. hotels, supermarkets or shopping centers with customer toilets).

What inspection obligations do exist for potable water installations?

Potable water installations must be tested primarily for Legionella (“Legionella spec.”*). For this purpose, a systemic examination in accordance with the Drinking Water Ordinance must be carried out if the following points apply to the system (§14b*):

  • the potable water installation is located in a public or commercial building
  • the potable water installation contains a large-scale plant for heating potable water
  • the potable water installation contains facilities (such as showers) that nebulise the water

Frequency of inspection for

  • public buildings: once a year
  • commercial buildings: once every 3 years

Why should potable water installations be cleaned?

Potable water stays only perfectly hygienic if the pipes and systems through which it flows are and remain in an equally perfectly hygienic condition. Although potable water is clean, clear and drinkable, it also contains inorganic and organic substances that can settle in form of biofilms, lime or other deposits in heating systems, on the inner surfaces of the pipes and in fittings. Chemical and microbial processes can also lead to rust and corrosion. Legionella multiply particularly well in warm water (20-45 °C). Legionella on the inside of pipes or in potable water storages can use existing biofilms to settle or multiply.

Potable water installations should also be cleaned regularly! Thorough, hygienic cleaning not only reduces the risk of a massive increase in Legionella and thus a risk to consumers, it also ensures that limescale and other deposits are removed. This means that the pipes and systems have the best prerequisites for maintaining the high quality of the potable water in the long term.

Thorough cleaning with subsequent disinfection should also always be carried out:

  • before initial operation or recommissioning
  • after repairs and maintenance measures
  • after changes to the pipes or the systems
  • in the event of increased Legionella levels

Specialities in hospitals and care facilities

In hospitals or care facilities people are treated who are weakened by illness, operations, injuries and other factors. They are particularly susceptible to so-called hospital infections (nosocomial infections), which are most commonly caused by bacteria that get into contact with the body via medical treatment or devices. In Germany and the EU, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one of the most common hospital germs. Pseudomonas can cause wound infections, urinary tract infections and life-threatening pneumonia or blood poisoning. Particularly problematic is that this bacterium already has one or even several resistances to common antibiotics by nature – and the trend is upward. Studies have shown that in up to 50% of all cases of Pseudomonas infections, a water source is the cause and with the increased frequency of examinations Pseudomonas has also been detected more and more frequently in potable water installations in hospitals! More about this bacterium?

What can responsible persons do? 

  • have a hazard analysis carried out for the entire potable water system
  • dismantle or remove unused pipes and fittings
  • thoroughly clean potable water pipes and heating or storage systems regularly (once a year) and disinfect them if necessary
  • sampling not only for legionella but also for Pseudomonas
  • in particularly sensitive areas: treatment of potable water for 100% hygienic safety
  • establish and implement a water safety plan

What solutions do we have for you?

We specialise in the removal of deposits, biofilms and pathogens. Legionella and pseudomonads can only be permanently removed from the system if their basis of life – the biofilm – is thoroughly cleaned. We remove legionella and PPE efficiently and sustainably with our proven multi-step flush!

Get advice from a specialist. Contact us today!

*Source: Implementation instructions for the Ordinance on the quality of water for human consumption (Drinking Water Ordinance – TrinkwV), §3 3.5, as of October 6, 2020