7 May 2019

How Often Should I Test My Water?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chem-Aqua representatives are frequently asked, “How often do I need to test my water?”  The answer to this question is as varied as the systems that Chem-Aqua treats.  There are a number of factors that go into determining the “best practice” for each facility.  Typically, these factors are:

  1. What type of system is being treated?
  2. How critical is the system to the operation of the facility?
  3. What are the realities of staffing availability and training?
  4. Is testing frequency mandated by any regulations or company policy?
  5. What is the reliability of the current water treatment systems and controls?

System Type

The type of system often plays a large role in answering the question of testing frequency. That is due to the fact that some systems are much more dynamic than others.  These systems include:

  1. Cooling Towers – Cooling towers, just by their very nature, are more dynamic. Cooling tower systems evaporate between 50-90% of the water introduced into them, based on incoming water quality. All of the water that evaporates must be replaced with fresh water, which introduces more opportunities for complications.  Automated control equipment will not eliminate the need for testing since they may lose calibration or fail.
  2. Steam Boilers – A facility with steam boilers provides another example of a dynamic system.  The environment in a boiler system is a study in extreme stresses.  Because of this aspect, water-related issues can arise quickly, especially if pretreatment or blowdown control equipment should fail.  
  3. Closed Loops – Loops that are not losing large and unexpected amounts of water usually require less testing. 

Systems such as cooling towers and steam boilers normally require more monitoring than closed loops because water in these systems change over more often than in closed loops. 

Critical Nature of the System

How critical is the system in question to the operation of the facility? If the system in question fails or shuts down unexpectedly, how much will that cost a company?  Will that affect other plants or facilities and have a “chain-reaction” effect?  

Arguably, all systems are important to the operation of a facility. However, some play a more significant role than others. When a system is critical to the function of a plant or facility, the system should be monitored and tested frequently.  Testing systems regularly allows owners and operators to head off potential issues before they become large issues that cause system failures and unplanned shut downs.

The more crucial the system, the more often it should be tested.

Staffing

What is the staffing situation at the facility or plant?  In today’s working world, many people are asked to do more with less.  As a result, many times it is a physical impossibility to test a system more than once a day or even a few times a week.  In addition, many times testing falls to the less experienced staff members who may not necessarily know how to interpret the results and determine which adjustments may be needed. When such staffing issues arise, it is important to work with your water treatment professional to determine the proper amount of testing required within the time allotted.  It is also critical to train all staff on the importance of testing and necessary responses. Testing even occasionally may be better than not testing at all.

Regulations or Company Policy

Are you required to test more frequently based upon regulation or company policy? Some cities, states, and communities require regimented testing of water systems to meet guidelines and regulations.  Companies may also have specific policies mandating the frequency and types of tests conducted. These policies or mandates may result from oversight of the application by a consultant, as well. It is important to know which regulations and policies apply.  Your water treatment professional can assist in understanding such requirements.

Reliability & Control

Do the pretreatment systems (e.g., softeners, dealkalizers, filters, reverse osmosis) run efficiently with little to no issues?  Do the controllers run effectively or do they lose calibration or have other issues regularly? Are water systems being tightly maintained at the edge of control ranges? Is process contamination a concern that would negatively impact a water system?  Understanding the limitations of a water treatment system will not only help determine testing frequency, but may indicate where controls and upstream impacts need to be upgraded and addressed.

Conclusion

There are many reliability and control factors to consider when determining the proper testing frequency. While it is impossible to predict when every issue will arise in your system, there are steps you can take to help minimize the impact of these issues. Frequent testing, regularly scheduled cleanings, and proper storage and lay-up can all help to significantly reduce the potential for problems in your facility’s important water systems. Contact Chem-Aqua today to have an experienced representative survey your facility for potential risks.

 

Written by: Tim Daniels

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