Chem-Aqua representatives are frequently asked, “How often do I need to test my water?” The answer to this question is as varied as the systems that Chem-Aqua treats. There are a number of factors that go into determining the “best practice” for each site. Typically, these factors are:
1. What type of system is being treated?
2. How critical is the system to the operation of the site?
3. What is the personnel availability on site? Are they trained?
4. Is testing frequency mandated by any regulations or company policy?
5. What is the reliability of the current water treatment systems and controls?
1. System Type
The type of system often plays a large role in answering the question of testing frequency. This is due to the fact that some systems are much more dynamic than others. These systems include:
A. Cooling Towers – Cooling towers, just by their very nature, are more dynamic. Cooling tower systems evaporate between 50-90% of the water introduced into them, based on incoming water quality. All of the evaporated water must be replaced with fresh water, which provides more room for complications. Although automated control equipment could reduce the frequency of some testing done on site, they will not completely eliminate the need for testing since sensors may lose calibration or connectivity can occasionally fail.
B. Steam Boilers – Installations with steam boilers provides another example of a dynamic system. The environment in a boiler system is a study in extreme stresses. Because of this aspect, water-related issues can arise quickly, especially if pre-treatment or blowdown control equipment should fail.
C. Closed Loops – Loops that are not losing large and unexpected amounts of water or experiencing process related contaminations usually require less frequent testing.
Overall, systems such as cooling towers and steam boilers normally require more monitoring than closed loops because water in these systems change over more often than in closed loops.
2. How Critical is the System to your Operation?
If the system in question fails or shuts down unexpectedly, how much will these cost the company? Will that affect other installations or sites and have a “chain-reaction” effect?
Arguably, all systems are important to the operation of an installation. However, some play a more significant role than others. When a system is critical to the function of a factory or site, the system should be monitored and/or tested frequently. Testing systems regularly allows owners and operators to head off potential issues before they become large issues that cause system failures and unplanned shut downs.
The more crucial the system, the more often it should be tested.
3. Are Site Operators Trained and Available for Testing?
What is the availability of operators at the site? In today’s working world, many people are asked to do more with less. As a result, many times it is a physical impossibility to test a system more than once a day or even a few times a week. In addition, many times testing falls to the less experienced staff members who may not necessarily know how to interpret the results and determine which adjustments may be needed.
When such issues arise, it is important to work with your water treatment professional to determine what the key tests required are, within the time frame available. It is also critical to train all operators on the importance of testing and necessary responses. Testing even occasionally may be better than not testing at all.
4. Regulations or Company Policies
Are you required to test more frequently based upon regulations (like boiler authorities, Legionella guidelines, etc.) or company policy? Some local authorities demand testing of water systems to meet guidelines and regulations. Companies may also have specific policies mandating the frequency and types of tests conducted. These policies or mandates may result from shared learnings and/or implementation of best practices. It is important to know which regulations and policies apply.
Your water treatment professional can assist in understanding such requirements and use this to generate a recommended testing frequency for your system.
5. Reliability & Control
Do the pre-treatment systems (e.g. softeners, dealkalizers, filters, reverse osmosis) run efficiently with little to no issues? Do the controllers run effectively, do they lose calibration or have other issues regularly? Are water systems being tightly maintained at the threshold of control ranges? Is process contamination a concern that would negatively impact a water system? Is online monitoring available?
A good understanding of a water treatment system will not only help determine testing frequency, but may indicate where controls and upstream impacts could be upgraded.
There are many reliability and control factors to consider when determining the proper testing frequency. While it is impossible to predict when every issue will arise in your system, there are steps you can take to help minimise the impact of these issues. Regular testing and cleaning measures, proper storage and lay-up procedures can all help to significantly reduce the potential for problems in your water systems.
Frequent testing doesn’t always correlate with good results. Often, a system can benefit more profoundly from online monitoring; bolstered by infrequent yet impactful testing.
Contact Chem-Aqua today for a free evaluation of your system and receive a bespoke testing frequency recommendation from one of our experienced representatives.