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The amount of water used during a fire when a building has a sprinkler system is less than that of an unsprinklered building, according to a report released by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) commissioned this report to assess community impacts related to water consumption.
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, says NFPA.
As a result, 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 of the sprinkler system. NFPA says it hopes fire departments and water authorities will use the report as a basis for reviewing the policies in their own jurisdictions.
The report considered standard estimates of the amount of water expected to be used in seven building types with and without automatic sprinkler protection during a fire condition, and also estimated the water used per year for commissioning, inspection, testing and maintenance of buildings with systems for each building type. The building types included business, assembly, institutional, mercantile, storage and residential.