Backflow Prevention FAQ

What is backflow?

Simply put, backflow occurs when a loss in water pressure (commonly due to a fire hydrant being opened, a water main break or simply abnormally high water usage) causes the water in your pipes to flow in the opposite direction. This occurrence could allow contaminated or polluted water to travel back into the drinking water supply possible contaminating thousands of people.

What is a backflow prevention device?

A backflow prevention assembly is a testable mechanical device which uses valves, in different configurations, to prevent contaminated water or chemicals from flowing back into the public drinking water supply system.

Why do I need one?

Cross-connections can occur at both commercial and residential properties. For commercial customers, cross-connections exist in many forms, from carbonated beverage machines and ice-makers, to fire sprinkler systems and x-ray machines. It is not uncommon for a commercial property to have multiple cross-connections at their facility.

On the residential side, the most common cross-connections occur with lawn irrigation and fire sprinkler systems. Perhaps the most frequently present cross-connection is the common garden hose, which when submerged in water, creates a dangerous path for contaminates to enter your drinking water.

Does a lawn irrigation system really need a backflow prevention device?

Lawn irrigation systems do require a backflow prevention device. These systems can backflow contaminated water into you drinking supply. All particulates that are in your lawn can seep into the underground pipes and enter the drinking water supply. This can be anything from fertilizers to animal feces. Backflow prevention devices protect this from happening. Lawn irrigation systems are considered a hazardous cross connection.

Why does it need to be tested?

There are many moving parts to a backflow assembly. It is a mechanical device, containing springs, internal seals and moving part, similar to an automobile. These parts can wear out or break. An annual backflow test is required by State and local regulations to ensure that the backflow assembly is working properly to protect the drinking water for you and your neighbors.*

(*) While most regulations require annual testing, some areas require semi-annual testing, while others require testing less frequently. Please check with your local regulatory authority.

Who can test my backflow?

Backflow testing is a specialized field. Specific state licenses are needed to test these devices. For a list of testers in your area please click this link.