The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides agencies guidance and technical resources to help meet their water metering requirements and improve water management.

Water Metering Requirements

Federal agencies are required to meter buildings for water per the Energy Act of 2020, codified in 42 U.S.C. § 8253(e), which directs agencies to meet the following water metering requirements:

  • By October 1, 2022, in accordance with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) guidance, all federal buildings shall, for the purposes of efficient use of water and reduction in the cost water in such buildings, be metered.
  • Each agency shall use, to the maximum extent practicable, advanced meters or advanced metering devices that provide data at least daily and that measure at least hourly consumption of water in the federal buildings of the agency.
  • Meter data shall be incorporated into federal water tracking systems (e.g. ISO 50001, Energy Management Information Systems) and made available to federal facility managers.

FEMP developed Federal Metering Guidance, which is forthcoming. The guidance provides official guidelines on how agencies meet these requirements. The guidance focuses on the installation of advanced meters and includes a process that directs agencies on how to prioritize their buildings for water meters. The process centers on metering water-intensive building types.

Water Metering Best Practices

FEMP worked in conjunction with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to develop the Water Metering Best Practices, which provides agencies with technical information to assist in the selection of appropriate water meters and to understand how data can be used and analyzed to improve water management. Access the Water Metering Best Practices.

Water Metering Prioritization

Need tips on water efficiency?

Read FEMP's 14 best management practices for water efficiency.

Agencies are required to develop metering plans to inform how they will deploy meters through their building stock. Guidance on water metering is provided by the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) in the Federal Building Metering Guidance, which helps agencies prioritize the application of water meters to their building inventories. Meters cost money to purchase and install, and agencies and installations with multiple buildings distributed over a region or campus usually balance water metering needs with available funds in the current year and anticipated out-year funding. To do this, agencies and sites evaluate their building inventories to:

  • Prioritize the order in which buildings should be metered for water
  • Develop an implementation schedule that maximizes the potential benefits.

This section offers technical information to assist agencies in how to develop a prioritization for water metering of buildings. This recommended approach does not consider agency or site-specific needs and issues included in an individual prioritization effort.

Building Water Meter Prioritization Process

The Federal Building Metering Guidance requires metering for all federal buildings that are not specifically excluded per specific criteria outlined in the guidance. Additionally the guidance requires metering for irrigated landscapes greater than 25,000 square feet.

Developing a prioritization for building-level water metering requires investigation of specific water uses. Prioritizing water meter implementation should recognize unique uses among the buildings, as well as any special requirements that might apply to any of the buildings. The prioritization process should also assess the schedule of installation because water meters will likely be phased over several years due to resource constraints. An oversimplified approach that only takes into consideration building square footage, for example, will likely overlook water-intensive buildings.

Follow the steps below to prioritize buildings for water meters using a more comprehensive water use approach. These steps are focused on a single campus but could also be utilized at the agency level (note that irrigation metering is handled separately from building water meters and should be prioritized by the size of the irrigated area).

  • Step 1: Develop a list of buildings with building type and square footage from the campus real property database
  • Step 2: Identify the number of occupants per building from associated building data or human resources records
  • Step 3: Determine the buildings' water consuming equipment such as plumbing, chiller plants, cooling towers, steam systems, commercial kitchens, vehicle wash, laundry facility, and lab equipment, which can be provided through equipment inventory databases or facility manager interviews. See FEMP's Best Management Practices for Water Efficiency for an extensive list of water consuming equipment.
  • Step 4: Estimate the daily water use for each building based on the type of water using equipment identified.
  • Step 5: Sort the building list by daily water use to determine the priority for which buildings should be metered for water.

Example Building Water Meter Prioritization

This table shows how the application of water meters is prioritized at a hypothetical federal campus using two different methods. In some cases, the buildings are excluded from meter application based on the appropriateness criteria, in which case these buildings receive a priority of "NA" for not applicable.

Example Building Water Metering Prioritization
Building Square footage Occupancy Water-using processes Estimated daily water use (gal/day) Priority based on square footage Priority based on daily water use
Office 1 22,000 150 Plumbing and Cooling Tower 4,052 4 1
Dormitory 35,000 100 Plumbing and Kitchen 1,550 1 2
Laboratory 12,000 3 Plumbing and Lab Equipment 1,536 7 3
Central Steam Plant 5,000 4 Plumbing and Steam Generation 1,348 10 4
Maintenance Facility 5,000 2 Vehicle Wash 1,224 9 5
Office 3 25,000 100 Plumbing 1,200 3 6
Office 2 13,000 50 Plumbing and Kitchen 775 6 NA. Does not meet daily use thresholds
Office 4 15,000 25 Plumbing 300 5 NA. Does not meet daily use thresholds
Training Center 8,000 50 Plumbing 600 8 NA. Does not meet daily use thresholds
Warehouse 35,000 2 Plumbing 24 2 NA. Does not meet daily use thresholds
Guard House Security Main 1,500 4 Plumbing 48 NA. Does not meet size threshold NA. Does not meet daily use thresholds
Guard House Secondary 120 1 Plumbing 12 NA. Does not meet size threshold NA. Does not meet daily use thresholds


Prioritizing based on building square footage (column F): Sorting the building list by square footage (column B) is the easiest method and requires the least amount of data and analysis. However, this approach does not take into account water intensive uses or processes.

Prioritizing based on daily water use (column G): Sorting the building list by daily water use is a more time intensive method, but this approach allows agencies to more accurately identify the buildings that consume the most water. Building occupancy (column C) and water using processes (column D) are used to estimate the daily water use for each individual building (column E).

When comparing the outcomes for both approaches (columns F and G) there are some distinct differences:

  • Sorting by building size may over-prioritize buildings that do not need to be metered. For example, the warehouse building received the second highest priority for metering based on square footage. However, with only two occupants and no water-intensive processes, this building does not meet the minimum threshold of 1,000 gallons per day.
  • Sorting by building size may miss buildings with water-intensive equipment. For example, the central steam plant and maintenance facility received a low priority when sorting by size, but it has large water-intensive equipment, which drives up the priority when sorting by water use.
  • Sorting by daily water use can help trim the number of required meters. In the example list, half of the buildings are determined not to meet the minimum threshold water use of 1,000 gallons per day. Sorting by building square footage, only two buildings are under the size threshold of 5,000 square feet.
  • Which approach should you use? The estimated water use method provides facility and water managers a better approach to prioritize for meters based on their potential impact. This is especially true for large and/or diverse building portfolios.

Potential Data Sources

The following data sources may include the information necessary to build the prioritization as described in the table above.

  • Real property data inventories track a wide range of information that usually includes a list of buildings being managed and information on those buildings including location, size, age, ownership, facility status, and use.
  • Equipment inventory lists or databases include inventories of installed equipment in federal buildings. This information may be particularly useful when prioritizing buildings that are distributed across a region.
  • Water utility invoices (such as water bills) identify water consumption at distributed facilities as well as the rate structures that apply. This information will be more useful when prioritizing buildings across a region that has different water utility providers.
  • Facilities management and maintenance staff are often knowledgeable about building systems and operations. Poll these individuals for information about water use observations, occupancy patterns, and other potentially relevant information.

Data can also be collected from:

  • Human Resources offices, which can collect occupancy data by building to estimate plumbing and kitchen water use
  • Building walk-downs, which provide firsthand information about the building, its use, and its water-using systems.