What to Do in the Event of a Water Outage

Water outages can have a detrimental effect on healthcare facilities. 

By Mackenna Moralez, Associate Editor


Editor’s note: This is part two of a three-part article. To read part one, please click here.  

Water is an integral part of daily operations as it is dispersed to different areas throughout a facility. A water outage can drastically disrupt workflow if it is unplanned.  

Albrecht explains that planned water outages occur when an interruption takes place under a planned schedule. These outages provide regular, prearranged maintenance to prevent the need for unplanned or emergency repairs.  

“It is often necessary to turn off the water in isolated areas of a facility or to the facility as a whole to perform the work depending on where maintenance efforts are taking place,” Albrecht says. “These outages are scheduled and communicated with facilities ahead of time to ensure that the outage does not interrupt the normal day-to-day. Facility managers can be more aware and better prepared for planned water outages by developing and implementing scheduled inspections and maintenance policies. This will provide facility managers with a projected timeline as to when aging water system equipment and accessories are ready to be upgraded or replaced.” 

Meanwhile, unplanned water outages occur when the need to shut off water to the water supply system is not preemptively scheduled. These types of outages occur when repairs are needed due to damage caused by water main breaks, accidental construction damage, or natural causes. In order to be prepared for unplanned outages, the CDC, Environmental Protection Agency and the American Water Works Association recommend that facilities managers develop and implement an Emergency Water Supply Plan (EWSP) that outlines the standard operating procedures that healthcare facilities managers ought to follow if an outage occurs. In addition, managers can also collaborate with local community organizations and municipal agencies to better track and be aware of impending emergency situations that may cause unplanned outages.  

“Facility managers should create and implement an effective water management plan that identifies what control measures should be applied, what parameters to monitor and how to verify the effectiveness of the plan,” says Conrad. “This may include items such as ensuring a back-up water supply and how to verify the quality of that supply once it arrives on site. Documentation will also be key as it will demonstrate compliance to the plan and can be distributed to stakeholders during an emergency as required.” 

While water emergencies are unavoidable, they can be easier to manage. Facilities managers can take preventative measures on the operation side by providing training opportunities to staff members that allow them to stay up to date on best practices and new technologies that are used within their facilities. Along with this, managers should ensure the EWSPs are updated frequently, ensuring that new policies and procedures for a water emergency are accurately communicated to team members.  

Documentation is also an essential part of preventing emergencies. Keeping a record of deficiencies and maintenance on water systems can potentially be used to identify and isolate the cause in the case of a system-wide water emergency.  

“From an outage standpoint, most people think ‘Oh my goodness, I lose water to my building. People can’t drink from the faucet or have food preparation,’ but it actually goes much deeper than that because when you don’t have water, you might end up in a condition where you can’t heat or cool the building,” Cain says. “Depending on the size and complexity during cooling season, nearly half of your [facility’s] total water usage could be just for the cooling tower system. When you can’t cool the building, you’ve got some major problems that lead to humidification control in the OR. Managers then have to ask themselves whether or not they can provide services without the utilities around HVAC in the building.” 

To continue reading part three of this three-part article, please click here.  

Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor for the facilities market.  



April 25, 2023


Topic Area: Maintenance and Operations


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