Free chlorine decay rates in water distribution systems for bulk and wall demands should be modelled separately as they have different functional dependencies. Few good quality determinations of in situ wall demand have been made due to the difficulty of monitoring live systems and due to their complexity. Wall demands have been calculated from field measurements at 11 locations in a distribution system fed from a single source. A methodology for the laboratory determination has been evolved and shown to give results that are similar to the in situ results. Pipe materials were classified as either having high reactivity (unlined iron mains) or low reactivity (PVC, MDPE and cement-lined ductile iron). The results indicate that wall decay rates for the former are limited by chlorine transport and for the latter by pipe material characteristics. The wall decay rate is inversely related to initial chlorine concentration for low reactivity pipes. In general, water velocity increases wall decay rates though the statistical confidence is low for low reactivity pipes. A moderate biofilm coating did not influence the wall decay rate for low reactivity pipes. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.