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Types Of Water Distribution System

What Is Water Distribution System?

A water distribution system is a collective system with components that are designed to carry water from the main water supply network to households. Different types of water distribution systems are used for supplying water.

The components such as pipes, pumps, fittings valves, storage tanks, etc help in the water supply to meet the consumer needs. The main purpose of the water distribution system is to distribute quality water to the residents.Water is essential in our daily life as most of our daily activities depend on water such as Cooking, Washing, Drinking, Bathing, Gardening, and other commercial activities.  

The water distribution components such as pipes are laid below the roads. The pipe layout is similar to the road layout which helps to cover most of the places.

Different types of water distribution systems are adopted considering the pressure requirement, operation and maintenance (O&M) strategy adopted, cost parameter, and overall length of distribution of the system.

Design Principles Of Water Distribution System

  • The distribution system must be capable of supplying water to all the water required areas with sufficient pressure heads.
  • It should be designed in such a way; the water supply must not be disturbed while carrying out any repair or maintenance work in any section of the system.
  • It must be capable of supplying the required amount of water during firefighting.
  • The system must be water-tight to reduce leakage chances.
  • The quality of water must not be compromised in the distribution pipes.
  • The distribution pipe must be laid one meter away or above the sewer lines.
  • Factors like water pressure, initial capital cost, and maintenance and operational cost must consider while designing.

Types Of Water Distribution Systems

There are 4 different types of water distribution systems, as mentioned below:

  1. Dead End System
  2. Radial System
  3. Grid Iron System
  4. Ring System

1. Dead-End System

In this type of water distribution system, many sub-main pipelines are connected to a single main pipeline that runs along the center of the building. Dead end water distribution system is also known as the Tree system.

 The sub-main pipelines are further divided from both sides into branches that connect various service areas of the building. This system is most suitable for unsystematic areas like old towns and cities with definite patterns of roads.

Advantages Of Dead-End Water Distribution System

  • This system is cost-effective
  • Pipe laying is easy, no skilled laborers are required
  • Determination of discharge and pressure quantity can be done easily due to a smaller number of valves.

Disadvantages Of Dead-End System

  • The chances of Stagnation of water in pipes are high due to many dead ends.
  • The pipes should have a large diameter and longer length due to high circulating flow from all directions.
  • The available water pressure is low, so a pumping system is required to meet the supply pressure requirement.
  • Because of high head loss in the system, the discharge availability for firefighting is very limited.
  • High risk, Due to only one main water supply pipeline to the entire building.

2. Radial System

In a radial system, the area is divided into various zones. The main water supply pipeline is connected to the distribution reservoir or storage tank which is kept in the middle of each zone. 

Then supply pipes are laid radially (as shown in the figure) from the distribution reservoir to households.

Advantages of Radial System

  • This type of water distribution is most suitable for high-rise buildings.
  • Disruption of water supply during any maintenance or repair work is very low.
  • The radial system supplies water with high discharge and with minimum head loss.
  • This system offers quick service.

Disadvantages of Radial System

  • It is not economical as the number of distribution reservoirs is more.
  • Due to more connections, this system requires more length of pipe laying system.

3. Grid Iron System

In a grid-iron system, the main pipeline, Sub main pipeline, and branch pipelines are interconnected to each other in the form of a grid system. A Grid-iron water distribution system is also known as an interlaced system or reticulation system.

The requirement of the total length of the pipeline is more due to more connections and it helps to maintain water pressure evenly. 

A Grid-iron water distribution system is best suited for modern well-planned cities as the water main pipeline and branches are laid in a rectangle layout.

Advantages of Grid Iron System

  • Due to no dead ends water is continuously flowing through pipelines.
  • Maintenance and repair work can be carried without out disrupting water flow.
  • This water distribution system provides the required discharge quantity for firefighting.
  • There is a minimum head loss because of the interconnection of pipes.

Disadvantages of Grid Iron System

  • In the grid-iron system, the requirement for cut-off valves is high.
  • It is not cost-effective due to more requirements of pipe length for laying.
  • This system requires longer pipe lengths with a larger diameter.

4. Ring Distribution System

In this water distribution system, the whole system is enclosed by the main pipeline in a radial or rectangular shape. as you can see in the above fig. smaller areas are enclosed by the sub-main pipeline. In case of any failure of one system, a very small area will be affected.

 The area ahead of the affected area can get water from other system points. The ring distribution system requires a higher number of valves. In this system, water can be supplied to any point from two directions.

Advantages of Ring Distribution System

  • The discharge rate is high when compared to other distribution methods.
  • Maintenance and repair work can be carried without out disrupting water flow.
  • Due to a smaller number of interconnections, the head loss is minimum.
  • Due to no endpoints, stagnation of water is minimal or zero.

Disadvantages of Ring Distribution System


  • It is not cost-effective, because the requirement of pipe length for laying is more.
  • The requirement for cut-off valves is more.
  • This system requires skilled laborers for laying pipelines.