American Water
Works Association

The water distribution systems for any city or town are the pipes that carry the treated water from the plant to your home or business. The pipes can range in size from about 1 inch to more than 12 feet in diameter. Pipes going to individual residences are usually 1 inch in diameter. Water mains that carry a large amount of water can range from 4 inches to as large as 12 feet in diameter. But to keep that water continually moving also requires pump stations and valves, which help control the flow and pressure throughout the system.

Probably the most common and visible element of a water distribution system is fire hydrants. Of course, fire hydrants are there to help fight fires whenever needed, but they also help maintain the water quality by helping flush the system when necessary.

Watch this part of the video about distribution.

Another component of the distribution system is storage. Storage tanks are filled during the time of day when water usage or demand is low, typically while you’re sleeping. So when demand is high, like when you’re getting ready to start your day, there is plenty of water for you and your neighbors to use. Storage tanks also allow the distribution system to maintain proper flow and pressure during high demand times.

Most water distribution systems are also connected electronically to an operations center. This allows for easier control of the valves, pumps and storage tanks from a central location.

From time to time, the pipes in a water distribution system can break or spring a leak. It’s up to your city, town or private water company to ensure breaks are kept to a minimum and to make repairs quickly. This helps conserve water, maintain water quality and limit traffic restrictions on the road.