Overview of Water Management Programs

Key points

  • Many buildings need a water management program (WMP) for their building water system or specific devices.
  • WMPs identify hazardous conditions and outline steps to minimize the health impact of waterborne pathogens.
  • Developing and maintaining a WMP is a multi-step process that requires continuous review.
A diagram of the process of implementing and monitoring control measures.


This site focuses on WMPs aimed at minimizing the growth and transmission of Legionella, the cause of Legionnaires' disease.

A consultant with Legionella-specific environmental expertise may sometimes be helpful in implementing and operating WMPs.


Seven steps of a Legionella WMP are to:

  1. Establish a WMP team
  2. Describe the building water systems
  3. Identify areas where Legionella could grow and spread
  4. Decide where to apply and how to monitor control measures
  5. Establish interventions when control limits aren't met
  6. Ensure the program runs as designed and is effective
  7. Document and communicate all the activities


In general, the principles of effective water management include:

  • Ensuring adequate disinfection
  • Maintaining devices to prevent
    • Sediment
    • Scale
    • Corrosion
    • Biofilm
  • Maintaining water temperatures to limit Legionella growth
  • Preventing water stagnation

Sediment, scale, corrosion, and biofilm provide a habitat and nutrients for Legionella.

Once established, WMPs require regular monitoring of key areas for potentially hazardous conditions. The programs use predetermined responses to respond when control measures aren't met.

Building factors

Each program has to be tailored for each particular building at a particular point in time.

Building factors to take into consideration include:

  • Age
  • Location and surrounding conditions
  • Structure and size
  • Water system components
  • Unique areas of risk for Legionella growth and spread
  • Who will be using the building

Options may vary depending upon:

  • Healthcare accreditation and survey requirements
  • Public health reporting requirements
  • State and local building codes
  • Water treatment regulations

For example, anti-scald regulations may limit maximum allowable water temperatures.

Illustration of a 10-story building, hospital, cooling tower, decorative fountain, and hot tub.
Both buildings and devices can need a water management program.

WMPs can cover entire buildings

In some settings, the entire building needs a WMP:

  • Hospitals and long-term care facilities
  • Buildings that house or serve a vulnerable population
  • Large buildings and those with complex water systems

WMPs can cover specific devices

In other settings, such as small buildings with simple water systems, only devices that aerosolize water may need a WMP:

  • Cooling towers
  • Decorative fountains
  • Hot tubs
  • Respiratory equipment intended for nebulization

Is your building or device a Legionella risk?‎

Buildings and devices at increased risk for Legionella growth and spread should have a WMP according to industry standards.