Water Valve Exercising

The ability to operate valves at a moment’s notice is extremely important. In an emergency, entire sections of a distribution system may need to be shut down immediately. However, if a valve is not used over time it can seize up from corrosion and/or silt, resulting in an inoperable valve. 


Knowing the exact location of your valves has multiple benefits. Surveying and exercising valves gives you an accurate representation of existing water distribution assets, lets you know if water main valves are operating as they are designed to, minimize insurance and legal claims, shut down water pipelines quickly in case of a main break, lower the cost of damage to buried infrastructure, reduce the area of effect of a water main break, and have a management program for your water distribution system. An effective valve exercising program may help prevent damage to property, environment, and injury to the public and employees.


The American Water Works Association (AWWA) recommends that all water utilities initiate a valve exercise program that requires all valves to be inspected and operated regularly.  The objective of this page is to outline key elements of our comprehensive valve exercise programs to: 

  1. Help agencies determine the effectiveness of existing valve exercise programs

  2. Improve the efficiency and productivity of distribution crews

  3. Improve valve reliability

  4. Reduce water loss

  5. Identify critical valves on the distribution system

  6. Measure and document valve operation

  7. Develop trend analysis

  8. Develop or improve data used in a GIS system

After updating or developing your GIS, you will have detailed records of each valve. Viewing valves within your GIS allows maintenance crews to verify the valves they are operating are left in a specific state.

Each exercised valve has attributes within GIS including: 

  1. Valve type and size

  2. Valve number

  3. Valve depth

  4. Valve location

  5. Date exercised

  6. Whether the valve is partially open

  7. Rounds exercised

  8. Open/Close direction

  9. Notes on any anomalies


  1. Reduce revenue loss

  2. System failure prediction reduces water loss

  3. Increase efficiency and effectiveness during main break emergencies

  4. Avoid costly liability and property losses

  5. Create a manageable capital improvement budget

  6. Enhance system reliability

  7. Strengthen customer confidence

Maintaining a valve exercise survey program allows water department personnel to successfully maintain water valves and water lines.


By regular surveying and valve exercising, you will have the detailed records you need to ensure the operability of your distribution system. Surveying helps identify the condition and location of all your valves. Knowing the condition of your valves and having an updated GIS system helps eliminate; higher costs associated with water main breaks, lost time digging up buried valves, and congested traffic due to excavating roadways. When it comes to maintaining your valves, it’s better to be proactive than reactive!

American Water Works Association “Manual of Water Supply Practices – Distribution Valves: Selection, Installation, Field Testing, and Maintenance” (AWWA M44)
AWWA “Water Distribution System Assessment Workbook”
AWWA Operating Guide to G200 – “Distribution Systems Operation and Maintenance”