Backflow Prevention: Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Backflow?
The water distribution system is designed to keep the water flowing from the distribution system to you the customer. However, when hydraulic conditions within the system deviate from the “normal” conditions, water flow can be reversed. When this backflow happens, contaminated water can enter the distribution system.
What Causes Backflow?
Backflow is possible in two situations, backsiphonage, and backpressure.
What Is Backsiphonage?
When there is a sudden reduction in the water pressure in the distribution system, such as during firefighting or when a water main breaks, water flow can be reversed. This can create a suction effect, drawing the non-potable substance into the potable water system.
What Is Backpressure?
Backpressure is created when the pressure in a non-potable system, such as in a recirculating system containing soap, acid, or antifreeze, exceeds that in the potable system that provides makeup water to the system. This can force the potable water to reverse its direction of flow through the cross-connection. Non-potable substances can then enter the potable water system.
How Can Backflow Be Prevented?
Four methods of backflow prevention are commonly recognized:
- Air Gap
- Double Check Valve Assembly
- Reduced Pressure Principal Assembly
- Pressure Vacuum Breaker Assembly
Your local water/sewer authority will determine which type of protection is required based on the degree of hazard that the property represents to the potable water supply.
What Is a Backflow Assembly?
A backflow preventer is an approved, testable assembly which uses valves, in different configurations, to prevent polluted or contaminated water from reversing direction and flowing backward.
How Is an Assembly Approved?
An approved backflow prevention assembly has gone through an approval process consisting of laboratory/tests and a twelve-month field test.
Who Is Required to Have a Backflow Prevention Assembly?
Federal and State law require that water suppliers protect their water systems from contamination. State regulations may exempt single-family residences used solely for residential purposes from assembly requirements. However, residences used for other purposes, as well as commercial and industrial customers, may be required to install and maintain backflow prevention assemblies. When a determination is made by health official that the potable water system may be subject to contamination through backflow, a backflow prevention assembly will be required. These decisions are made on a case by case basis.
My Property Is Served with Reclaimed Water. Do I Need Backflow Protection?
Yes. Customers receiving reclaimed water must install a Reduced Pressure Assembly (RPA) backflow preventer on all potable water connections, including fire services.
Who Can Install a Backflow Prevention Assembly?
The installation of the backflow prevention assembly should only be done by a licensed professional.
Where Should a Backflow Prevention Assembly Be Located?
Generally, the backflow prevention assembly must be located as close as possible to the water service connection but must remain on private property. A licensed professional can provide information on variances.
Who Is Responsible for the Testing and Maintenance of the Backflow Assembly?
It is the sole responsibility of the customer to ensure that the assembly is in satisfactory operating condition at all times. Annual testing is required to stay in compliance. The customer must contact a recognized or licensed Backflow Assembly Tester to perform the test. If any repair work or maintenance is performed on the assembly, a recognized Tester must retest the assembly immediately and submit the test results to your local water/sewer authority.