Since governments all over the world are paying more attention to water quality in water distribution systems (WDS), a method based on mass balance and first-order chlorine decay model was proposed to assess the efficiency of WDS involving water quality (represented by residual chlorine). The concepts of surplus chlorine factor (S) for nodes in individual pipes and comprehensive surplus chlorine factor (CS) for nodes in WDS were put forward to represent the water quality characteristic of nodes in WDS based on the assumption that the structure of pipe network and quantity of chlorine dose are definite. The proposed method was applied to two examples of WDS and sensitivity analysis regarding chlorine decay coefficient (k0) was discussed. The results indicated that values of CS for nodes in WDS are affected by inflow of nodes, which is determined by water demand and pipe length from water sources to nodes. In addition, the value of CS increases with k0 when the inflow of the node is larger than the optimized inflow. The results verified that the deduction of S for a single pipe can be generalized to WDS, and can measure the water quality characteristics for nodes in WDS easily.