A long pipe with high standards

Running water is a matter of course in every household in Germany. It comes out of the tap in the same way as power comes out of the wall socket. But the route to get there is complicated and hygienically demanding because the quality standard of this foodstuff must be safeguarded from the public supply system to the house and through the pipes and valves. If you imagine, for example, that orange juice would flow out of the pipe instead of water, it immediately becomes clear how important hygiene is.

Drinking water quality – not a problem in Germany

Around 6,200 water utility companies are responsible for the drinking water in Germany. It is strictly monitored from the source to the water meter to ensure it is of the highest quality.

Drinking water is one of the best controlled foodstuffs in Germany Image source: Hessenwasser

Water at any time – not a problem in Germany

Germany is one of the top water saving nations thanks to innovative technologies and the responsible use of the precious resource by the German people.

Water consumption by comparison

Although we do not have to save water in Germany, the sustainable use of drinking water makes sense because the extraction and transport of water as well as the generation of hot water consumes energy. Water saving therefore also means saving energy.

Less and less water is being consumed in Germany Diagram image source: www.trinkwasser-wissen.net
Germany is one of the top water saving nations Diagram image source: www.trinkwasser-wissen.net

The responsibility of homeowners

The last section of the drinking water system is the responsibility of the homeowners and not the water utility companies. But many dangers lurk in the last few metres. If the basic technical regulations are disregarded, this may result in pressure fluctuations, a compromise on convenience as well as influences on the colour and flavour – through to water damage and health hazards. Illnesses, such as diarrhoea and vomiting can be caused by contaminated drinking water. Probably the most serious case is an infection caused by Legionella type A bacteria.

Legionellas are bacterias that grow particularly well in standing warm water. You can get infected from a droplet infection when showering, from air conditioning systems or when watering the lawn. Legionellas can trigger the so-called Pontiac fever or pneumonia.

Saving water

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Numerous solutions have been developed since the 1970s to optimise the quality assurance.
Source: trinkwasser-wissen.net

Shut-off valve

Absperrarmatur is used to shut off the entire drinking water installation or at least individual pipe sections. The pipes may need to be shut off for repair and maintenance work. The pipes can be shut off centrally, for example, at the cellar distribution point in the house service room or also within the flat. The valves are mainly shut-off valves but piston valves and ball valves are also used. close

Water meter

Wasserzähler is used to determine the water consumption for a house or flat. In houses, it is installed at the point at which the water pipe comes into the house. In blocks of flats where the water consumption is charged separately per flat, it is installed at the respective extraction point at the end of the respective water pipe.

The water meter must be recalibrated every six years (hot water) or five years (cold water) in accordance with the German Weights and Measures Act. The calibration year can be found on the so-called main stamp (seal). The year is engraved on one side and the identification number of the inspection body or Office of Weights and Measures is on the other side. close

Shut-off valve with integrated backflow preventer

Absperrventil mit integriertem Rückflussverhinderer allows the pipe to be shut off, the pump to be maintained and prevents hot water being extracted from the circulation pipe system. Its functioning must be checked once a year.close

Frost-proof garden valve
with safety device against backflow

Gartenarmatur is a frost-proof shut-off valve that is installed between the indoor and outdoor areas of buildings so that water can be extracted for irrigation and cleaning purposes. The frost-proof valve ensures that water can be extracted in outdoor / garden areas all year round. It is not necessary to drain water in the supply pipe to the valve at the start of periods of frost. The outlet valves have a hose fitting and are secured with a key or actuation handle against the unauthorised extraction of water. close

Combination of filter / pressure regulator

Gerätekombination Filter / Druckminderer Filter:
protects the drinking water installation against contamination (for example, caused by grains of sand or particles of rust), which can cause corrosion damage. It is compulsory to install a filter in the form of a fine filter or backflushing filter in accordance with the recognised technical standards. A backwashing filter should be backwashed every two months and the fine filter should be replaced after six months.

Pressure regulator:
has the task of reducing excessive pressure in the connecting pipe in the drinking water system to the maximum permissible operating pressure of 5 bar in the drinking water installation and reducing the water volume flowing to the extraction points. Pressure regulators are usually installed centrally in the cold water pipe downstream of the water meter. close

Leak protection system

Leckageschutzsystem protects the building against water damage and completes the drinking water installation downstream of the house connection. Water damage is prevented by detecting leaks or pipe damages at an early stage when they occur, whereupon the drinking water pipe is automatically shut off by the leak protection system. close

Water softening system

Wasserenthärtungsanlage OPTIONAL: Is recommended on a regional basis if the house is located in a water supply area with hard water. Produces a chemical or physical reaction – depending on the technology used – to prevent the build-up of calcification in the drinking water installation and the household appliances supplied by it. It facilitates personal hygiene and dishwashing and reduces the use of soap and cleaning agents. Regular maintenance is required. The water softening system is fitted with a safety device (e.g. a system separator) to be able to connect it to the drinking water installation. close

Metering device

Dosiergerät OPTIONAL: Must be selected in individual cases with the installer if the house is in a water supply area with hard or aggressive water. Minerals are added to the drinking water installation that protect against corrosion and prevent the build-up of calcification. This can also increase the pH value. Metering takes place in the form of liquid concentrates depending on the water quality and the pipe material. Metering systems must be checked regularly and maintained once a year. close

Flushing tank

Spülkasten is the water tank for the toilet flush. It is available as a flush-mounted or surface-mounted version (in front of the wall). The flushing tank is operated using a control button and is also optionally available with an economy button (flush volume of 3 or 6 instead of 9 litres) or an electronic toilet control system. The flushing tank fills up again after pressing the button. close

Regulating angle valve

Eckregulierventil blocks the drinking water flow upstream of the washbasin tap for disassembly, maintenance or repair purposes. close

Shower

Duschbrause in contrast to a fixed overhead shower, the hand-held shower can be removed from a bracket and used by hand to clean specific parts of the body. Modern hand-held showers offer various adjustment options in terms of the water supply and the intensity of the shower jet, whereby the different functions can be set using a revolving ring on the shower head. Many hand-held showers also have a massage function, whereby the water is concentrated in an intense jet and flows out under greater pressure. close

Thermostatic mixer

Thermostatmischer allows the pre-selection of the desired temperature. close

Sanitary tap valve

Sanitäre Auslaufarmatur extraction point depending on the design, as a single-handle mixer or twin-handle tap with or without an electronic control. close

Kitchen outlet valve

Küchenauslaufarmatur extraction point depending on the design, as a single-handle mixer or twin-handle tap with or without an extendable hose. close

Connection valve device

Geräteanschlussventil valve with a safety device against backflow, with a shut-off valve and hose connection to be able to connect devices and appliances, such as a washing machine. close

Boiler

Kessel is used to heat the house and to heat the drinking water. The energy source is usually oil or gas. close

Drinking water heating / drinking water storage tank

Trinkwassererwärmer turns cold water into hot water and stores the hot water until it is used. close

Heating filling group for the heating system

Heizungsbefüllgruppe is permanently connected to the heating pipe system, is permanently closed and is only opened when water should be added to the heating system. A safety device is integrated so that the heating water does not come into contact with the drinking water. close

Twin-handle mixing tap

Zweigriff-Auslauf-Mischarmatur for the extraction of cold or hot water or for the extraction of mixed cold and hot water. close

Heating filling valve for the heating system

Heizungsbefüllventil der Heizungsanlage is permanently closed and is only opened when water should be added to the heating system. close

Circulation pump

Zirkulationspumpe pumps the hot water and circulates it up to the outlet valves in the bathroom and kitchen. The advantage of the circulating hot water is that hot water runs out as soon as the outlet valves are opened and the drinking water hygiene in the hot water system is maintained. close

Pre-wall installation

Vorwandinstallation is required to maintain the noise protection in buildings. Drinking and waste water systems are installed in the pre-wall elements, which are installed in front of the wall, secured and sealed. close

Drinking water – cold

Trinkwasser - kalt close

Drinking water – hot

Trinkwasser - warm close

Drinking water – circulation

Trinkwasser - Zirkulation is used to maintain the drinking water temperature – hot – and to continuously circulate the hot drinking water. close

Regulating valve for drinking water circulation

Regulierventil für Trinkwasserzirkulation ensures that the circulating hot water constantly reaches all areas where hot water is needed. close

Shut-off valve with integrated backflow preventer

Absperrventil mit integriertem  Rückflussverhinderer allows the pipe to be shut off and prevents water flowing back from the domestic installation into the public supply network when it is open, which could lead to substantial hygienic problems. It is compulsory to install a backflow preventer downstream of the water meter. Its functioning capacity must be checked once a year. close

Membrane safety valve / safety group

Membran- Sicherheitsventil / Sicherheitsgruppe protects against excessive pressure in the hot water and in the drinking water heater (sealed drinking water storage tank) and therefore prevents the risk of the drinking water heater exploding. High pressure arises when the cold water in the sealed tank is heated up to a hot water temperature of up to 60°C. close

Shut-off valve

Absperrarmatur is used to shut off the entire drinking water installation or at least individual pipe sections. The pipes may need to be shut off for repair and maintenance work. The pipes can be shut off centrally, for example, at the cellar distribution point in the house service room or also within the flat. The valves are mainly shut-off valves but piston valves and ball valves are also used. close

Water meter

Wasserzähler is used to determine the water consumption for a house or flat. In houses, it is installed at the point at which the water pipe comes into the house. In blocks of flats where the water consumption is charged separately per flat, it is installed at the respective extraction point at the end of the respective water pipe at the respective extraction point or at the branch of the drinking water riser in the flat.

The water meter must be recalibrated every six years (hot water) or five years (cold water) in accordance with the German Weights and Measures Act. The calibration year can be found on the so-called main stamp (seal). The year is engraved on one side and the identification number of the inspection body or Office of Weights and Measures is on the other side. close

Garden valve with safety device against backflow

Gartenarmatur mit Sicherungseinrichtung gegen Rückfluss is a shut-off valve that is installed outside buildings so that water can be extracted for irrigation and cleaning purposes. Outlet valves with a hose connection are mainly used, which are secured with a key or actuation handle to protect against the unauthorised extraction of water. close

Combination of filter / pressure regulator

Gerätekombination Filter / Druckminderer Filter
protects the drinking water installation against contamination (for example, caused by grains of sand or particles of rust), which can cause corrosion damage. It is compulsory to install a filter in the form of a fine filter or backflushing filter in accordance with the recognised technical standards. A backwashing filter should be backwashed every two months and the fine filter should be replaced after six months.

Pressure regulator:
has the task of reducing excessive pressure in the connecting pipe in the drinking water system to the maximum permissible operating pressure of 5 bar in the drinking water installation and reducing the water volume flowing to the extraction points. Pressure regulators are usually installed centrally in the cold water pipe downstream of the water meter.close

Flushing tank

Spülkasten is the water tank for the toilet flush. It is available as a flush-mounted or surface-mounted version (in front of the wall). The flushing tank is operated using a control button and is also optionally available with an economy button (flush volume of 3 or 6 instead of 9 litres) or an electronic toilet control system. The flushing tank fills up again after pressing the button. close

Regulating angle valve

Eckregulierventil blocks the drinking water flow upstream of the washbasin tap for disassembly, maintenance or repair purposes. close

Shower

Duschbrause in contrast to a fixed overhead shower, the hand-held shower can be removed from a bracket and used by hand to clean specific parts of the body. Modern hand-held showers offer various adjustment options in terms of the water supply and the intensity of the shower jet, whereby the different functions can be set using a revolving ring on the shower head. Many hand-held showers also have a massage function, whereby the water is concentrated in an intense jet and flows out under greater pressure. close

Thermostatic mixer

Thermostatmischer allows the pre-selection of the desired temperature. close

Sanitary tap valve

Sanitäre Auslaufarmatur extraction point depending on the design, as a single-handle mixer or twin-handle tap with or without an electronic control. close

Kitchen outlet valve

Küchenauslaufarmatur extraction point depending on the design, as a single-handle mixer or twin-handle tap with or without an extendable hose. close

Device connection valve

Geräteanschlussventil valve with a safety device against backflow, with a shut-off valve and hose connection to be able to connect devices and appliances, such as a washing machine. close

Boiler

Kessel is used to heat the house and to heat the drinking water. The energy source is usually oil or gas. close

Drinking water heating / drinking water storage tank

Trinkwassererwärmer turns cold water into hot water and stores the hot water until it is used. close

Twin-handle mixing tap

Zweigriff-Auslauf-Mischarmatur for the extraction of cold or hot water or for the extraction of mixed cold and hot water. close

Drinking water – cold

Trinkwasser - kalt close

Drinking water – hot

Trinkwasser - warm close

Outlet valve

Auslaufarmatur is used to fill the heating system and is connected temporarily with a hose to the heating filling valve if required. close

Heating filling valve for the heating system

Heizungsbefüllventil der Heizungsanlage is permanently closed and is only opened when water should be added to the heating system. close

Membrane safety valve / safety group

Membran- Sicherheitsventil / Sicherheitsgruppe protects against excessive pressure in the hot water and in the drinking water heater (sealed drinking water storage tank) and therefore prevents the risk of the drinking water heater exploding. High pressure arises when the cold water in the sealed tank is heated up to a hot water temperature of up to 60°C. close

Shut-off valve with draining

Absperrventil mit Entleerung allows to shut off the pipe to the garden irrigation valve. In order to prevent frost damage, the shut-off valve is closed at the start of periods of frost (in autumn) and the garden water pipe is emptied. close

Shut-off valve with integrated backflow preventer

Absperrventil mit Entleerung allows the pipe to be shut off and prevents water flowing back from the domestic installation into the public supply network when it is open, which could lead to substantial hygienic problems. It is compulsory to install a backflow preventer downstream of the water meter. Its functioning capacity must be checked once a year. close

Three basic golden rules

There are three important factors that have to be taken into consideration with a drinking water installation and that are the responsibility of every house or flat owner:

1. Water must flow

Bacterias can spread freely if the tap water stands in the pipes for an extended period of time. In residential buildings, it can be sufficient to run the water for some time after an extended period of absence. However, it is more difficult to maintain an overview in hospitals, care homes or hotels. Circulation systems and automatic flushing mechanisms help to solve the problem here.

2. The right temperature

The temperature of cold water should be below 25 degrees Celsius and hot water should be over 55 degrees Celsius. Legionella and Pseudomonas cannot survive in these temperature ranges.

3. Hygienically safe materials

Valves and pipes also have a major influence on the water quality. As they come into direct contact with the drinking water, they must not release any harmful substances into the water – just like any other food packaging.

The source for good water

Commercial use – everything that water must be able to do

Water is generally used every day in private households. This means that it stays in motion simply through use. It is a different matter for commercial use. The continuous, daily use of water is not always guaranteed in office buildings or hospitals.

Offices are rarely used at weekends – and hotel rooms can stand empty for weeks or even months. In addition to the material quality of the valves and fittings, the networking of the pipe system also plays a decisive role here. If it is designed as a large circuit, this means that all the tap water can be set in motion – no matter where it is in the building.

If it moves around – circulation keeps out unwanted visitors

Hotels present a special challenge for the drinking water supply – because less attractive rooms can sometimes stand empty for an extended period of time. The task here too is to observe the basic rule that “water must flow”.

Water has no fixed path

While it is important for the quality of water that it is continuously flowing, it is disastrous if it leaves its anticipated path.

In Germany, approximately 3,000 water-damage incidents occur on a daily basis that incur high costs. The main reason in particular for this, apart from overflowing bathtubs, is burst pipes that are caused by corrosion or pitting. Damage of this type is completely avoidable

If water flows out uncontrolled due to a burst pipe or faulty toilet flush, the valve stops the water escaping and therefore prevents floods in living rooms and cellars, thus acting as reassuring leakage protection. In addition, the homeowner receives a message via an app – even when they are not home – so that they can quickly take measures to fix the leak.

Intelligent building technology

Intelligent safety valves can not only detect leaks, but also provide the corresponding countermeasures.

Not just a “small hole” …

Even the smallest holes in a pipe, which are not even a centimetre in size, can lead to significant water damage at normal water pressure.

475

litres/day

are lost through a 0.5 mm hole in a pipe. This equates to approximately 2.5 bathtubs.

16,270

litres/day

are wasted within 24 hours with a 3 mm hole. This corresponds to around 81 bathtubs.

56,500

litres/day

are lost through a 7 mm hole in a pipe. These 282.5 bathtubs could be used to fill an entire swimming pool.

So, is it running well?

Yes, because there is sufficient water, the water supply is functioning smoothly and clean technology accompanies the water on its way.

The quality of drinking water here is so good that tap water regularly receives a rating of “excellent” from the German Environment Agency and so is also rated as a cheaper alternative to mineral water by Stiftung Warentest, a consumer organisation and foundation.

So anyone wanting to avoid carrying mineral water crates and save money at the same time should simply hold their glass under the tap.

Turn on the tap and drink: tap water in Germany is of very good quality. Image source: BDEW

Human and water

The story of drinking water has accompanied the history of mankind since its beginning. But clean drinking water, as we know it today, was rarely found until about 120 years ago. However, already ancient civilized cultures appreciated the high hygienic value of good drinking water.

Their preserved remains of water pipes, viaducts and public baths give an eloquent testimony.

Today we speak of an optimal water, when it is pure and light, low in minerals and free from harmful substances and ingredients.

Value of water

Water is not simply water, and people have recognized earlier how important the quality of their drinking water is to their health.

Further links

www.blue-responsibility.net

Blue Responsibility is a sustainability campaign run by the German sanitary industry. It provides information on all aspects of sustainability, from environmentally friendly production processes to the social commitment of individual companies.

Go

www.bewegung-im-bad.net

More and more people remain fit well into old age and still want to lead independent lives when they reach this stage in their lives. The prerequisite for this is a design that adapts to the changing requirements – even in the bathroom. “Bewegung im Bad” (“Perspectives in bathrooms”), an information service by Blue Responsibility, provides information on how this can be achieved.

Go

www.trinkwasser-wissen.net

trinkwasser-wissen.net is an information service provided by Blue Responsibility and outlines all the important facts about our most precious resource: from its origin and use to the price of drinking water.

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Authors

Wolfgang Burchard

VDMA Valves: Managing Director

Wolfgang Burchard has been Managing Director of the German Valve Manufacturers Association and German Welding and Pressure Gas Equipment Association within the VDMA (Mechanical Engineering Industry Association) since 1997. After studying law at the University of Bonn and a legal clerkship at the Higher Regional Court in Cologne, he began working as a lawyer in the district administration of Siegburg. Wolfgang Burchard took up a position as a consultant for VDMA Mining 1991. Six years later he switched to become Managing Director of both of the associations mentioned above.

Stefan Oberdörfer

VDMA Valves: Consultant

Since 2012, Stefan Oberdörfer has been working as a consultant for the German Valve Manufacturers Association – specifically in the area of building valves. Drinking water hygiene is a focus that is also a priority for Mr Oberdörfer with the creation of the website www.trinkwasser-wissen.net .

German Valve Manufacturers Association (VDMA)

The German Valve Manufacturers Association is a consortium of almost all major German building and industrial valves. It currently has approximately 160 member companies and represents the interests of the valve industry towards the authorities, suppliers and consumer organisations in national and international institutions. It has an influence on technical regulations and offers advice on all product-specific matters.