One of the air valves in the featured image is an AWWA valve. Can you guess which one?
I had an engineer pose a question to me today about single body versus dual body air release valves, and I quickly saw myself going off on a tangent about AWWA valves and why it is important. Using AWWA valves for municipal water and wastewater treatment systems is important, and I’m going to quickly tell you the big picture of why it is important.
AWWA (American Water Works Association) put together standards for all valves in the municipal world for a couple reasons.
1) They wanted a level playing field for people to consider one manufacture against another.
2) They wanted certain size requirements so the valves could be consistently used in the same service conditions.
3) If they want to switch to another manufacture in the future the valve size and dimensions wouldn’t be limiting them to only going back to that same manufacture.
4) They wanted there to be a level of liability protection in the event something does go wrong.
They seem so simple, but it is a big deal. If someone absolutely does not like one valve because they believe the long term quality isn’t what they expected, they don’t have to go back to that manufacture if it is an AWWA valve. They have choices to replace one AWWA manufactured valve with another. It lets customers have a base line to make sure they are looking at “Apples to Apples” when making a choice.
The most important factor that I listed above that is often overlooked is (4). It is the most overlooked quality and I’m seeing the danger growing recently of municipalities using non-AWWA valves more than in recent years. Liability protection is something that is the biggest concern for any municipality. There are other valves that are non-AWWA, which are used in irrigation or industrial applications. If an irrigation valve explodes, it may just water the field a little more until it is recognized and fixed. If a valve in a municipal pump station or pipeline vault explodes, you face major liability issues when you “don’t” use AWWA valves. When the insurance company or government agency investigates why there was a release or damaging event caused by a non-AWWA valve, how do you explain your choice? “I know they aren’t AWWA, but the manufacture said they would work and I trusted them”.
There are a number of examples I’ve witnessed where a non-AWWA valve was used, it had a catastrophic failure because it could handle day to day low pressures, but when a series of events happened that take it to the other end of the scale for which AWWA valves are designed to handle, it failed and the company supplying the product walked away. They might offer a replacement valve at no charge because it is a small cost to them, but they won’t be caught up in high fines and law suits when significant damages occur and they can just claim “We aren’t an AWWA valve and we didn’t know these particular events might be subjected to the valve”.
Be smart, be safe, and make sure you use an AWWA valve on municipal projects. They are designed for long life and a series of circumstances you might not see at first. Let irrigation systems and factories with their own property determine what they want to use on their non-municipal applications.
Answer: The valve on the left is a Val-Matic standard AWWA air release valve. The others are used in the agricultural industry.