Some municipal water authorities have assessed water fees related to the recovery cost of unmetered water used in the event of a fire in sprinklered buildings. However, owners and operators of unsprinklered buildings have typically not been assessed this fee – even though water usage is also unmetered during a fire. This is even more surprising given the expectation that buildings equipped with a fire protection system use less water during a fire than buildings without a fire protection system. To add to the confusion, the equations by which municipal water authorities determine water usage and calculate water recovery fees differ widely.
The Research Foundation of the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA, issued a report on “Impact of Sprinklers on Fire Flow Water Consumption” to assess the community impact of water consumption in sprinklered and unsprinklered buildings and review associated water recovery fees.
The study considered standard estimates of the amount of water expected to be used in various 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 total amount of water anticipated to be used for fire protection was compared with fees in sample jurisdictions; methods were developed to calculate fire water fees that are proportional to the anticipated volume of fire water used.
More information and the complete research report can be found at the NFPA website.