The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides streamlined, updated operations and maintenance (O&M) guidelines for the following water-using equipment:

  • Toilets and urinals
  • Faucets and showerheads
  • Landscape and irrigation equipment
  • Commercial kitchen equipment
  • Vehicle wash facilities
  • Chillers.

This page provides agencies with high-level information on what to assess, how often to assess, and action items for each equipment type with the goal of providing useful tips on how to maintain and operate water equipment efficiently to save water and prolong the equipment life.

This information is intended for O&M managers, technical staff, and resource (energy, water, or environmental) managers as it applies to water-using systems and equipment typically found in federal facilities. These guidelines are not designed to replace or supersede manufacturer guidelines or specifications.

General Operations and Maintenance

O&M is a cost-effective way to ensure reliability, safety, and water efficiency. Inadequate maintenance of water-using systems or equipment can lead to unnecessary leaks and losses and premature equipment failure.

The following guidelines identify actions that should be completed on scheduled intervals. Unplanned actions that can take place daily are another aspect of effective maintenance. These actions include:

  • Regularly inspecting water-using systems and individual pieces of equipment; verifying systems are operating and performing correctly
  • Reporting and repairing all leaks, and encouraging all building occupants to contact building management or maintenance staff to report leaks, running flush valves, dripping faucets, and broken or misaligned irrigation equipment
  • Reporting and repairing all damaged equipment. Examples of common damaged equipment include (but are not limited to) broken or misaligned sprinkler heads, malfunctioning faucet and flushometer sensors, broken flush valves, and altered showerheads. Identify these problems during routine inspections and encourage users and occupants to alert building management or maintenance staff if they observe damaged equipment
  • Operating and maintaining equipment according to manufacturer guidelines.

Operations and Maintenance Guidelines

The tables below offer O&M guidelines for the water-using equipment. The tables list information by:

  • Equipment/schedule: identifies the specific item or part being addressed
  • Frequency: lists the recommended time intervals for the maintenance action
  • Assess: describes the action to be taken by O&M managers, technical staff, and resource (energy, water, environmental) managers to assess the equipment
  • Action items: describes the actions to be completed when problems are identified.

Equipment/ScheduleFrequencyAssessAction Items
Commercial flushometer toilet and urinal diaphragm flush valvesAnnuallyDetermine if flush valves have long flush cycles (greater than five to six seconds); this can indicate a broken, leaking, or improperly rated valve.

Remove the cap of the valve and determine if the diaphragm gasket is dirty or brittle. Check the flush rating, which should be marked on the gasket.

If the gasket is dirty, scrub the gasket and check flush cycle length to see if flush cycle returns to normal length; if not, replace the gasket. If the gasket is brittle, replace with properly rated gasket.

If the gasket is improperly rated, replace valve with correctly rated retrofit kit. Check the flush volume adjustment screw and set to the manufacturer's specifications.

Residential tank toilet water levelAnnuallyRemove the tank lid and check to see if the water is flowing over the top of the overflow tube and if the tank water level is set at or below the manufacturer's specifications.

Ensure that the fill valve (mechanism that refills the tank after each flush) is working properly and not running constantly.

Adjust the float to lower the tank water level for either of these cases. Replace the fill valve if the toilet continues to run after the float is adjusted.
Residential tank toilet flapper valveAnnuallyConduct a flapper valve leak test by dropping dye or food coloring into the tank water; wait 10 minutes and see if the dye has seeped into the bowl through the flapper valve. Submit a work order if required.If there is dye seepage, first ensure that the flapper valve properly drops after a flush. If the flapper is fully dropping into place and seepage continues, the flapper is leaking and needs to be replaced.
Commercial flushometer toilet and urinal sensorsAnnuallyObserve flush sensor to determine if it is not working properly (e.g., double flushing) and needs calibration. Submit a work order if required. Determine the current schedule of sensor calibration.Calibrate automatic sensors to ensure they are only activated after the user leaves the stall to reduce "double flushing" or "phantom flushing."
Non-water urinalsManufacturer's specificationObtain maintenance schedule of non-water urinals and determine if it meets the manufacturer's recommended maintenance.Clean and replace the sealant, cartridges, or material in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations.
Education and outreachAnnuallyIdentify actions to improve occupant awareness and practices.Post a sign in the restrooms that tells occupants how to report long flush cycles, visible leaks, and other maintenance issues. Note that using feet on toilet handles can damage the flushing mechanism and should be avoided.

Equipment/ScheduleFrequencyAssessAction Items
Leak detectionEvery six monthsCheck for leaks in faucets and showers every six months. Encourage cleaning or custodial crews to report problems.Establish a protocol to fix leaks immediately once they are found.
Faucet and shower aerators/flow restrictorsEvery six monthsInspect faucets and showerheads for missing or broken aerators and flow restrictors. Aerators and flow restrictors are frequently broken or removed, causing fixtures to flow at much higher flow rates. Submit a work order if required. Inspect for failing shower diverter valves. Submit a work order if required.Replace if needed and install vandal-proof fixtures that are more difficult to break or remove.
Faucet sensorsEvery six monthsDetermine the current schedule of sensor calibration.Regularly calibrate automatic sensors to ensure proper operation and reduce long wash cycles.
System pressureAnnuallyTest system pressure to make sure it is between 20 and 60 psi. Water pressure can be measured with a pressure gauge connected to a water spigot, typically on the outside of a building. Fixtures will consume more than their rated amount of water and cause wear and tear on the fixture at high pressure.If the pressure is too high, install a pressure-reducing valve. A pressure-reducing valve is typically placed at the building water meter. Reduce water heater settings where appropriate to prevent temperature and pressure relief valves from discharging water.
Education and outreachAnnuallyIdentify actions to improve occupant awareness and practices.Post a sign in the restrooms that tells occupants how to report visible leaks and other maintenance issues.

Encourage users to take shorter showers; place clocks or timers in or near showers to allow users to track their timing better.

Equipment/ScheduleFrequencyAssessAction Items
SchedulingAt the start of the irrigation season and at major changes in weather patternsReview irrigation schedule to determine the time of day and days per week for each zone.Verify that the irrigation schedule is appropriate for climate, soil conditions, plant materials, and season. Irrigate during non-windy and low-sun periods to decrease evaporation; early mornings are typically the least windy.

Change the watering schedule based on changing weather conditions and as part of regular, periodic maintenance; consider installing a rain gauge that is tied into the irrigation controller to automatically shut off the irrigation system during a rain event (called a "rain delay").

For flat landscaped areas, water deeply and less frequently rather than lightly and often. Deep, less frequent watering encourages deep roots, resulting in more-drought-tolerant plants.

Irrigate using a "cycle and soak" schedule for steep slopes where surface runoff is likely.

If irrigation is controlled by an advanced weather-based or soil-moisture-based controller, ensure that the system is properly programmed for the location and the specific landscape type.

Irrigation monitoringOnce a month through the irrigation seasonInstall an irrigation meter to measure the amount of water applied to the landscape. The meter should be an advanced meter with interval data capability and automatic data logging.Use this data for system analysis to monitor for system leaks and repair needs and to determine a water budget.
Equipment maintenanceOnce a month through the irrigation seasonPeriodically walk the landscape grounds and check for standing water, which may indicate a leak. Submit a work order if required. Ask the grounds manager to check emitter components for broken heads and leaks. Common examples of damaged emitters include broken heads, clogged nozzles, nozzle seal leaks, sunken heads, and tilted and misaligned heads.Require immediate repair of broken components; adjust components as needed so that they efficiently water the landscape and not the hardscape.
Landscape maintenanceAnnuallyReview the current landscape maintenance practices (aeration, mowing, mulching, amendments, and weeding) and timing. Periodically review all landscape service and maintenance agreements to incorporate a high priority for water efficiency. Consider hiring landscape contractors who focus on water-efficient or climate-appropriate landscaping. Require landscape contractors to report and fix problems.Aerate turf at the beginning of the irrigation season to introduce oxygen into the soil and encourage deep root growth.

Alternate turf mowing height between high and low levels and alternate mowing patterns to encourage deep root growth and drought-tolerant turf.

Add mulch to landscaped areas to help reduce evaporation, inhibit weed growth, cool plant root zones, and reduce erosion.

Amend the landscape soil with organic matter 4 to 6 inches deep, which will help to capture stormwater and retain moisture.

Keep landscaped areas weed free; weeds can take up valuable water and nutrients that are needed by the landscape.

For new construction and renovations, design landscapes to feature native and/or adaptive plantings that have low watering requirements. Follow the new construction checklist requirements.

System pressureAnnuallyVerify that irrigation system pressure is within manufacturer specifications once per irrigation season.Install a pressure-reducing valve if pressure exceeds the manufacturer's specification.
Performance measurementAnnuallyReview grounds maintenance contracts to determine if water efficiency certification and water use/performance are part of contract requirements.Require the grounds maintenance staff or contractor to become a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense Certified Irrigation Professional.

Incorporate a water budget, which can be used as a performance standard for water consumption. Calculate water needs based on the landscape's requirements and use that information to plan an irrigation schedule to meet those needs.

Irrigation auditEvery 3 yearsContract with a qualified irrigation auditor to perform a system irrigation audit that follows procedures outlined in the Irrigation Association's Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor Program or equivalent. The result of the audit determines the system's distribution uniformity.Based on the results of the audit, adjust the irrigation system to increase the distribution uniformity.
Education and outreachAnnuallyIdentify actions to improve occupant awareness and practices.Provide a clear means for building occupants to report an irrigation leak, broken and misaligned sprinkler heads, and watering during a rain event.

Encourage grounds maintenance staff to sweep driveways and impervious surfaces rather than spraying them clean.


  • To properly operate and maintain landscaping and irrigation systems, a facility should develop a grounds maintenance program that includes training, scheduling, maintenance, and monitoring. If the facility subcontracts grounds maintenance to an outside company, include language in the contract that requires performance criteria for water efficiency and conservation and implementation of the best management practices.
  • The "cycle and soak" method breaks up irrigation events into multiple applications of short duration. This gives adequate time for the landscape to absorb the irrigation water. If the installed irrigation controller is not capable of such programming, replace it with advanced control technology.
  • Distribution uniformity provides information on how effectively irrigation water is applied to the landscape. This is an important component of the overall system efficiency. The distribution system uniformity reveals whether irrigation is spread evenly over the landscape or if some areas are over- or under-watered. According to the Irrigation Association, a distribution uniformity of greater than 65% is considered acceptable. A low distribution uniformity can reveal misaligned and mismatched heads, required repairs, and distribution system improvements.

Equipment/ScheduleFrequencyAssessAction Items
Commercial ice machinesCheck for leaks every six months. All other items should be done annually.Check for lime scale buildup, broken components, and leaks. Determine whether the manufacturer-provided use and care instructions are being followed.Repair or replace any broken components and repair any leaking connections. Clean to remove lime scale buildup and sanitize to kill bacteria and fungi. Clean the coils to ensure the heat exchange process is efficient. Work with the manufacturer to optimize the rinse cycle; ensure it is set to the lowest frequency while still providing appropriate ice quality.
Steam cookersCheck for leaks every six months. All other items should be done annually.Check for broken components and leaks. Determine whether the manufacturer-provided use and care instructions are being followed.Repair or replace any broken components, and repair any leaks. Remove any deposits that may have developed in the boiler. Review the operational schedule; ensure the steam cooker is turned off or in standby mode during long periods of inactivity. Use the minimum number of steam compartments.

Encourage batch loading rather than opening and closing the door multiple times to load and unload food trays.

Pre-rinse spray valvesCheck for leaks every six months. All other items should be done annually.Inspect the pre-rinse spray valve and its line and connections. Check for leaks and broken or loose parts. Submit a work order if required. Ensure system pressure is within manufacturer's specifications. Inspect the spray nozzle for restrictions and lime scale.Repair any leaks and repair or replace any broken or loose parts. If necessary, adjust the system pressure to ensure proper operation. Remove restrictions and lime scale that might impede flow. Ensure that the hose height is adequate so that the user will not use alternate faucets that may use more water. Train users to pre-soak heavily soiled dishes and to manually scrape as much food as possible prior to using the pre-rinse spray valve.
Food disposalsCheck for leaks every six months. All other items should be done annually.Review operating procedures and manufacturer's guidelines. Check for leaks or constantly running water while not in use. Submit a work order if required.Train users to put large food scraps into a composting receptacle or the garbage rather than running them through the disposal. Where possible, shut off the water flow when the disposal isn't being used. Train users to refrain from pouring grease down the disposal because it will clog the system piping over time.
Commercial dishwashersCheck for leaks every six months. All other items should be done annually.Check for broken components, loose connections, and leaks. Determine if the manufacturer-provided use and care instructions are being followed.Repair or replace any broken components and repair any leaking connections. Encourage operators to only run the dishwashers at full capacity. Adjust system pressures, flow rates, and cycle times according to manufacturer's specifications. Operate dishwasher at minimum flow rate and set the cycle to the minimum time per manufacturer's suggestions. Observe final rinse pressure to ensure that it is within the manufacturer's recommendation.
Education and outreachAnnuallyIdentify actions to improve occupant awareness and practices.Provide a mechanism for staff to report visible leaks and other maintenance issues.

Follow education and outreach components in each individual equipment type.


To properly operate and maintain commercial kitchen equipment (i.e., ice machines, steam cookers, pre-rinse spray valves, food disposals, and dishwashers), a program should be established for each dining facility that includes routine inspection, maintenance and repair, review of operating procedures, and education.

Equipment/ScheduleFrequencyAssessAction Items
Equipment maintenanceEvery six monthsFor pressure washers, inspect the sprayer, connecting hoses, and the water storage system for leaks and broken or missing components. Submit a work order if required.

Make sure that open hoses are not being used to wash vehicles.

Make sure the main shutoff valve is functioning correctly.

Check flow rates to ensure they are within manufacturer's recommendations.

Make sure nozzles and sensors are calibrated and aligned properly in conveyor and in-bay systems to ensure nozzles spray at the right time and in the correct direction.

For pressure washers, perform the following:

Repair or replace broken or leaking components, hoses, and system connections.

Replace the main shutoff valve if it is not operating properly.

If there is no pressure washer, ensure that spray nozzles are attached to hoses.

For facilities that use detergents, use high-quality detergents to shorten the time required to clean each vehicle.

System pressureAnnuallyRoutinely verify that system pressure is within manufacturer's specifications.Minimize pump head pressure or install a pressure-reducing valve to maintain system pressure based on manufacturer recommendations.
Education and outreachAnnuallyAssign a staff member to be responsible for checking equipment and repairing leaks.Encourage users to use brushes rather than water pressure to remove large debris from vehicles.

The predominant impact of chillers on water use relates to proper function. An inefficient chiller will require more hours of operation to meet the cooling demand. These additional hours result in increased water use through evaporation at the cooling tower.