The NFPA and Fire Protection Research Foundation recently published the results of a new report. According to the report, “Fire Flow Water Consumption in Sprinklered and Unsprinklered Buildings: An Assessment of Community Impact,” the amount of water used during a fire when a building has a sprinkler system is less than that of an unsprinklered building.
Water authorities have introduced strategies over the past three decades to recover costs for water consumed in sprinklered buildings. These fees are typically not related to the actual sprinkler flow, but address the fact that these flows are not metered and therefore not accounted for in conventional cost recovery systems. Fires that occur in unsprinklered properties that utilize water from hydrants, which are not metered, are typically not subject to fees.
The study found that an owner of an unsprinklered building received the full benefit of unlimited water through the public water system during a fire without an increased cost, while the owner of a sprinklered building pays for the water used for commissioning, inspection, testing and maintenance (CITM) of the sprinkler system.
“As the number of sprinklered buildings increases over time in communities, we must make sure that the incentives for providing built-in fire protection aren’t offset by financial disincentives from water distribution fees – a fire in an adequately sprinklered building will always result in a more efficient use of water resources compared to a fire in a similar unsprinklered building,” said Gary Keith, NFPA's VP of field operations and education. “It’s our hope that fire departments and water authorities will use this report as a basis for reviewing the policies in their own jurisdictions."