Hydrant Flushing & Maintenance: Why It’s Essential for Your Community

 

At Gewalt Hamilton Associates, Inc. (GHA), our Facilities and Utilities Management (FUM) Division understands that the availability of clean, safe water is a top priority in any community. One often overlooked aspect of maintaining this vital resource is hydrant flushing and maintenance. While it may seem like a minor detail, this practice is essential for guaranteeing that residents receive high-quality water and that hydrants are fully operational for emergency firefighting situations.

The Guidelines

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) Manual M17 is the definitive guide for hydrant inspections and maintenance. It recommends performing inspections at least once a year, typically in the spring. However, it’s good practice to conduct an additional inspection during the fall. Following these guidelines, GHA’s FUM Division conducts inspections at least twice a year. This ensures that hydrant barrels are drained to prevent freezing during the winter months, a proactive measure that can save communities both time and resources in the long run. “Regular hydrant maintenance is one of those things that you don’t notice until you really need it,” says GHA Utility Operation Technician Rob Ulrich “It’s a fundamental aspect of community safety and well-being.”

Ensuring Water Quality

Hydrant flushing is not just about emergency preparedness; it’s also about water quality. Dead-end water mains, or those that don’t have sufficient daily flow, can become a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause chlorine residuals to drop to ineffective levels. Flushing these mains ensures that water quality remains high and that chlorine residuals are maintained, making the water safe for everyday use. Mike Grinnell, Director of Facilities and Utilities Management, added, “How well we maintain our hydrants directly impacts the quality of water in a community. It’s not just about emergencies; it’s about everyday health and quality of life.”

 

Two GHA employees flush a hydrant in Round Lake Beach.
Two GHA employees flush a hydrant in Round Lake Beach.

Emergency Preparedness

In the event of a fire or other emergency requiring large volumes of water, a malfunctioning hydrant can have serious consequences. The regular maintenance performed by GHA’s FUM Division goes beyond simply turning a valve. The maintenance process is comprehensive, covering a range of checks and procedures. These include flushing the hydrant to remove foreign material, verifying drain valve operation, and checking for leakage at specific points like flanges and seals. These steps follow the AWWA Manual M17 guidelines and aim to ensure optimal functioning of each hydrant component. This level of attention to detail can make all the difference in emergency situations, where every second counts.

 

Community Benefits

Beyond the obvious benefits of clean water and emergency preparedness, regular hydrant maintenance can also offer financial advantages for a community. A well-maintained water system is more efficient, reducing the costs associated with water loss and system failures. Communities that can demonstrate a high level of preparedness may also see benefits in terms of insurance ratings, potentially lowering premiums for property owners.

Hydrant flushing and maintenance is a critical aspect of community infrastructure that often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. By adhering to guidelines like those set forth by the AWWA and by maintaining a regular schedule of inspections and flushing, communities can ensure that they are both saving money and, more importantly, safeguarding the health and safety of their residents. At GHA, our FUM Division is dedicated to upholding these standards, ensuring that we continue to deliver reliable and effective solutions for our communities.