Do I Need a Backflow Preventer?

In last month’s newsletter, we discussed why backflow is bad (hint: it contaminates your drinking water!) and how it might happen. The key to preventing backflow is to have a properly installed, maintained, and inspected backflow prevention device as part of your culinary water system.

But does every WaterPro customer need to install a backflow prevention device? The answer is: you need backflow prevention if you have a culinary water connection that may be used to supply a sprinkler system.

Still confused? Let’s look at some examples.

#1: The Condo Couple

The Condo Couple lives in a condominium in a multi-unit building. They have culinary water service for which they are billed individually, but no connection to WaterPro’s pressure irrigation (PI) system because they have no lawn, just a few plants on their balcony that they water by hand. Does the Condo Couple need a backflow prevention device?

Answer: No! They do not have a sprinkler system, or any outdoor watering system at all, so they do not need backflow prevention.

#2: The Old House Family

The Old House family lives in a historic home with a small lot. They do not have a sprinkler system, but hook a hose with a sprinkler attached to their outside faucet when they want to water their lawn. Do they need a backflow prevention device?

Answer: Yes, they should have a small device on their exterior faucet. Since it is an old house, an older faucet may not have backflow prevention built in. If that is the case, they can buy a hose bib vacuum breaker (see picture), available at most plumbing supply and hardware stores, and install it – they are easy to install. Or they could replace an old faucet with a new one with integrated backflow prevention.

#3: The Irrigator

This customer is “hard tied” to the PI only with no option to switch to the  culinary supply without digging up and adding piping to connect that supply to the existing sprinkler system. Does the irrigator need backflow protection?

 Answer: No. If the sprinklers are “hard tied” to PI only, there is no need for backflow protection on the sprinkler system.

#4: The Dual User and Culinary Only User

Both of these customers have the ability to use culinary water through all or part (e.g., flower beds) of their sprinklers. The Culinary Only customer is “hard tied” to the culinary, while the Dual User can switch back and forth from culinary to PI through a swing connection. Which of these customers needs backflow prevention?

Answer: Both! Even if the Dual User only uses PI and has never switched to the culinary, as long as they have the ability to switch, they MUST have a backflow preventer. The Culinary Only user who doesn’t have PI available in their area is still required to have backflow protection.

Do I have a backflow preventer?

Not sure whether or not you have a backflow prevention device installed? Normally, it’s installed near your culinary stop and waste.

A backflow prevention device typically extends above ground, although those installed before 2006 may be in a sprinkler box in the ground. Some people install a cage or a fake rock over the device to protect or camouflage it – that’s perfectly all right. Just lift up that rock to see if there’s a backflow device under it.

Also note that backflow prevention is required when needed, along with inspection of the device to make sure it’s working properly.

Here’s the most important thing to take away: If you have any questions about whether you need a backflow prevention device, how to get one, or anything about backflow, please contact Paige Wolfe, our backflow prevention expert, at 801-571-2232