Effective Backflow Programs

Water Law Resource
September 12, 2012 — 957 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

When it comes to water management, backflow is one of the most serious problems that can occur. Backflow incidents can cause a rapid decline in the quality of available water, which can lead to serious illnesses and can cost millions of dollars to clean up. It is imperative that effective backflow programs are put into place for both public and private water systems. These programs can be implemented relatively inexpensively, and they are required by law for all municipal water systems. 

The Importance of Effective Backflow Measures

Public and private water systems have active or potential cross-connections between the clean, incoming water supply and the polluted, outgoing water. Common cross-connections include icemakers, sprinkler systems and carbonated beverage fountains. When water pressure suddenly drops, the water in the pipes may flow in the opposite direction, which causes contaminated water to mix into the clean water. This is known as backflow. 

Federal, state and local regulations across the country require comprehensive backflow programs to be established and properly maintained. Clean drinking water is a necessity, and when it becomes contaminated, the health and the lives of everyone in the community are jeopardized. In serious cases, backflow can cause pest-control poison, fertilizer or even flammable gas to enter the water supply. Failing to establish an effective backflow program also exposes a community to steep penalties and lawsuits. 

Components of an Effective Backflow Program

The primary means of backflow protection is through locating all potential cross-connections. Once the cross-connections are located, backflow can be prevented. Establishing air gaps between the incoming and outgoing water is the most effective solution, but this is not always feasible. Several types of backflow prevention assemblies can be installed in locations where air gaps cannot be created. 

Once the backflow prevention assemblies have been installed, they need to be maintained on a regular schedule and tested annually. Some states require annual testing to remain in compliance with the law while other states require biannual testing. Proper maintenance of backflow programs includes the following elements:

- Locating and mapping all backflow assemblies
- Testing and verifying all backflow assemblies
- Verifying all testers are licensed and/or certified
- Repairing all assemblies that do not pass the tests

To make the maintenance and testing of backflow programs as efficient as possible, most communities use computer systems and specialized software. A computer system makes it easy to locate and track all backflow assemblies, and it can be used to analyze test results quickly.

Water Law Resource