Practitioners’ Perspective on the Prevalent Water Quality Management Practices for Legionella Control in Large Buildings in the United States

Rajveer Singh, Deepika Chauhan, Alanna Fogarty, Md Rasheduzzaman, Patrick L. Gurian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Managing building water systems is complicated by the need to maintain hot water temperatures high enough to control the growth of Legionella spp. while minimizing the risk of scalding. This study assessed water quality management practices in large buildings in the United States. Surveys conducted with building water quality managers found that more than 85% of buildings have hot water temperatures that are consistent with scald risk mitigation guidelines (i.e., <122 F/50 C). However, nearly two thirds and three quarters of buildings do not comply with the common temperature guidance for opportunistic pathogen control, i.e., water heater setpoint > 140 F (60 C) and recirculation loop > 122 F (50 C), respectively; median values for both setpoint and recirculation loop temperatures are 10 F (6 C) or more below temperatures recommended for opportunistic pathogen control. These observations suggest that many buildings are prone to Legionella spp. risk. The study also found that 27% of buildings do not comply with guidelines for time to equilibrium hot water temperature, over 33% fail to monitor temperature in the recirculation loop, more than 70% fail to replace or disinfect showerheads, more than 40% lack a written management plan, and only a minority conduct any monitoring of residual disinfectant levels or microbiological quality. Given the rise in Legionellosis infections in recent years, coupled with highlighted water quality concerns because of prolonged water stagnation in plumbing, such as in buildings closed due to COVID-19, current management practices, which appear to be focused on scald risk, may need to be broadened to include greater attention to control of opportunistic pathogens. To accomplish this, there is a need for formal training and resources for facility managers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number663
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Building water quality management
  • COVID-19
  • Legionella spp
  • Opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens (OPPPs)
  • Recirculation loop
  • Temperature control
  • Thermostatic mixing valve (TMV)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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