Stagnant water in hospital plumbing systems: What are the risks?

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When a patient is admitted to the hospital, they expect it to be clean and safe. But is it?

Creating a sanitary building is optimal for patient recovery. However, stagnant water found in hospital plumbing systems may put patients at risk for infection. To eliminate hospital acquired infections, it’s imperative to reduce waterborne pathogens and infections.

Stagnant water and hospital acquired infections

Waterborne illness and disease are dangerous and, in some cases, deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6,393 deaths in 2017 can be attributed to pathogens that are transmitted by water. 

These hospital acquired infections can pose serious risk, especially to immunocompromised patients. In order to minimize rates of morbidity and mortality related to hospital acquired infections, it’s imperative to reduce stagnant water and the spread of waterborne pathogens. 

What waterborne illnesses are hospital patients at risk for?


Hospital safety is a priority for healthcare facilities. Illnesses like Legionella, E. coli, Hepatitis A, nontuberculous mycobacteria, and Pseudomonas-related pneumonia can develop in water infrastructure. Transmission of these diseases can occur via contact with the contaminated water or through the inhalation of aerosols. Therefore, these waterborne illnesses become health risks for patients.

E. coli, for example, can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening symptoms. Additionally, Hepatitis A is a liver infection that lasts weeks to months. These illnesses, and other waterborne diseases, become increasingly prevalent in areas where there is stagnant water. Water systems can transmit these diseases, even in hospitals.

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How to reduce the chances of illness from waterborne pathogens

1. Use water treatment systems

Decrease bacteria in your water via water treatment systems. A variety of disinfection systems are available, but monochloramine and chlorine dioxide have been shown to reduce levels of Legionella and other illnesses.

Non-chemical filtration systems are also available. They last for approximately three years. Plus, they demonstrate impressive reductions of Legionella bacteria.

Here is an overview of your hospital filtration options:

  • Centralized UV LED System: This filtration system emits light that can deactivate pathogenic organisms.
  • High Temperature: These filtration systems use heat to disinfect water systems.
  • Periodic Chlorine Flushing: Chlorine is a disinfectant that can be added to water to kill off parasites, bacteria, and other waterborne pathogens.
  • Point-of-Use Membrane Filters: A point-of-use system treats water in batches. Once the water is disinfected, it is delivered to the tap or faucet.

2. Eliminate stagnant water

Although water treatment systems may help, it is difficult to fully disinfect sinks and drains in hospitals. Therefore, it may be more beneficial to focus on the prevention of stagnant water. By keeping water flowing and draining properly, you’ll reduce the likelihood of hospital acquired infections. In fact, moving water is less likely to develop biofilm and pathogen contaminants.

Eliminate stagnant water by installing auto-drain shower systems in your patient restrooms. This advanced patient care technology automatically drains standing water between the shower valve and shower head and between the shower valve and hand-held spray, which eliminates the risk of stagnant water that may cause illness.

Additionally, our auto-drain shower system comes in three variations to meet the needs of your facility — fixed shower head, hand spray with hose, and retrofit kit for existing shower hose.

3. Invest in training

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For ideal safety and increased prevention, look into waterborne disease prevention training programs. By keeping your hospital employees up-to-date on the best practices for disease prevention, you can work toward a pathogen-free facility. A variety of training programs are available, including:

In your training program, you'll learn about:

  • The Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch (WDPB) mission
  • Identifying risk factors for infection
  • Developing new ways to remove pathogens
  • Improving public health through communication and education
  • And so much more!

Free education materials are also available through the CDC.

Finally, if there is an outbreak in your facility, be sure to investigate. 

Check out the DHQP Consultation Guide, which explains how to respond when an outbreak happens at your hospital.

Next steps

To create the ideal space for health and recovery, ensure that your hospital is taking the necessary measures to minimize the chances of hospital acquired infections. Whether you revamp your hospital restrooms or invest in an auto-drain shower system, be sure to take preventative measures to address the potential issue of stagnant water and waterborne illness.

For more resources on hospital safety and water-related products for your healthcare building, visit our blog.


Click here: Learn about the faucet that encourages CDC handwashing recommendations. 

Topics: Patient Care, Healthcare, Infection Prevention