/ Articles / Code Update: How NSF’s Water Standards Support New Technology

Code Update: How NSF’s Water Standards Support New Technology

Theresa Bellish on September 7, 2023 - in Articles, Column

Following the American Water Works Association (AWWA) ACE 2023 show in Ontario, Canada, the long-term vision of creating a sustainable water sector is front of mind for many stakeholders in the water industry. How technology supports global efforts to address climate change, how climate change is impacting our drinking-water resources and which technologies may work as viable solutions all are central topics. This comes as the industry has more information than ever before as to which materials may cause negative health effects when they encounter our drinking water.

A key part of creating successful water solutions that address human and planet health is the standards in place to support them. As new technology is developed, it’s important to have universally recognized and accepted standards across the industry to ensure the new technology meets rigorous safety and quality requirements. National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) leads the development of voluntary standards, working with the Standards Committee that’s equally comprised of regulatory bodies, industry representatives and end users, the Public Health Council, and the Health Advisory Board. NSF’s goal when developing standards is to improve and protect human and planet health by creating criteria that products must meet, helping create an industry benchmark that safeguards the public.

Piping Components and Related Materials

Countries worldwide are evaluating their water-systems infrastructure, many of which have existed for centuries, and assessing how it impacts human health. In the United States, some of the infrastructure servicing the public is more than 100 years old. Through evaluations and research, we have uncovered more information regarding the health implications of these existing systems and which materials could be used to replace them.

This process currently is taking place in the United States, where $15 billion was allocated to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that’s funding the lead service line replacement. The replacement materials for this project include copper, polyethylene (PE), crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These materials are required to be certified to NSF standards by state drinking-water requirements and plumbing codes to ensure they don’t cause any harmful health effects to the public. Depending on the material, they need to be certified to NSF/ANSI/CAN 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects or NSF/ANSI 14: Plastics Piping System Components and Related Materials. These standards evaluate health effects of the materials to help protect end users.

Drinking Water System Components

Established in 1989, NSF/ANSI/CAN 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects has played a crucial role in instituting minimum health-effects requirements for chemical contaminants and impurities indirectly imparted in our drinking water from products and materials. It’s a dynamic national standard of the United States and Canada, which means that although it has been around for more than 30 years, it’s continually monitored and updated to ensure it addresses current criteria and applicable technologies.

NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 covers products including water meters, valves, chemical-generation storage and dispensing equipment, coatings, lubricants, gaskets, municipal filtration equipment, portland cements, pipes, fittings, activated carbon and many more. The toxicology review procedures and chemical evaluation criteria are housed in NSF/ANSI/CAN 600, which is a companion standard to several product standards such as NSF/ANSI/CAN 61.

Water Quality Test Devices

Accurate water quality measuring systems are an imperative starting point to evaluate which water treatments need to be conducted before water can be distributed for end use. Water quality test devices (WQTDs) serve a vital role in our drinking water systems, measuring water quality parameters such as metallic, organic and microbial concentrations, total suspended solids, turbidity, hardness and alkalinity, among other parameters. This year, NSF established the first known protocol for WQTDs used in drinking water to assess accuracy, precision and other device performance claims. Before this protocol’s development, manufacturers could only conduct their own validation testing without an established third-party standard certification. Certification to NSF P524 provides assurance that these crucial devices perform according to the manufacturer’s claims.

Water Treatment Chemicals

We’re experiencing more environmental and manmade threats to our drinking water sources than ever before, and our water utilities have a huge responsibility to ensure the water is properly treated before being distributed to the communities they serve. Extreme weather caused by climate change impacts our source water. This can be seen through droughts that cause an increased concentration of contaminants, while heavy rainfall increases sediment and pollutants runoff into source water. This has increased the need for effective water treatment chemicals to properly disinfect the water for use.

As a tool for water utilities, which have responsibility for treatment and distribution of safe drinking water, NSF/ANSI/CAN 60: Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals – Health Effects serves an important purpose in providing health-effects criteria for the evaluation of chemicals used in the treatment of public drinking water supplies. NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 sets requirements for water-treatment chemicals’ health effects for products including, but not limited to, disinfectants, coagulants, well-drilling aids, corrosion control and scale inhibitors. Most Canadian provinces and U.S. states require municipal drinking water treatment chemicals to be certified to NSF/ANSI/CAN 60. Like NSF/ANSI/CAN 61, this standard is a dynamic national standard of the United States and Canada and is continually reviewed and updated to reflect current criteria and chemicals used to treat drinking water.

Innovation with Safety in Mind

Although we face many challenges regarding climate change and its impact on human health and the environment, the water industry continues to develop solutions. Although it can be challenging to create new technologies that are sustainable, protective of human health, durable and cost-effective, NSF standards are in place to help. By meeting the quality and safety criteria outlined in the standards, receiving certification can also help manufacturers gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace by verifying their product claims. This also increases the quality of the industry, as certification creates an expectation for safe, quality products in the industry.

Engineers and other industry members and regulators also benefit, as they have a wider selection of products and materials to choose from for various projects. As technology is developed and implemented into our water infrastructure systems, standards create a framework for the criteria products should meet, ensuring we all work together to create a more sustainable and healthy future.


Avatar photo

About Theresa Bellish

Theresa Bellish is senior director of Commercial Water, NSF; email: [email protected].

Comments are disabled