Backflow prevention programs are in place to protect the public health from intentional and unintentional contamination of the public’s potable water supply. Backflow is a flow reversal in a piping system. Normally, water flows from a water main in the street to a residential service. A serious health risk to the community occurs when there is any return from a customer’s plumbing system. Imagine several people sharing a beverage through the same straw. One person who has an infectious disease drinks from the straw and the entire group may become ill.
The plumbing industry refers to a connection where contaminants are introduced as a cross connection. Although plumbing systems, once installed, provide protection from cross connections, property owners may inadvertently modify the plumbing and allow hazardous cross connections to exist. For example, a simple garden hose chemical sprayer or a hose connection to another source of water for irrigation can create a potentially hazardous situation.
A water supply industry practice is to install a backflow preventer on a customer’s service line in order to protect the public distribution system. Because these health and safety valves are mechanical devices, they must be tested periodically to insure their integrity.
In addition, all of the national model plumbing codes require backflow preventers at points of use in a plumbing system where contaminants may enter the plumbing system and endanger the occupants of the building. The plumbing industry has demonstrated consensus that these valves are vital to protecting the owner and the public’s general health and welfare.
Residential and business plumbing systems are not that different and typically present the same level of risk of public water system contamination. For example, a home may have a swimming pool, solar panel, water softener, and a private well for irrigation. Having swimming pool water or well water introduced to the public supply may indeed be a greater public risk than a professional office with a restroom and kitchenette. If you have any question regarding the plumbing requirements or the operation of these safety devices, do not hesitate to contact the Backflow Prevention Institute at (303) 451-0978 or visit www.backflow.net