Tips to Safeguard your Home from Backflow Contamination

Preventing Backflow & Contamination

When fresh water flows through your plumbing system, the right amount of water pressure ensures that it only flows in one direction.  If there are circumstances in your area that prevent this from happening (i.e., firefighters using a large supply of water, a water main break or even a broken pipe), the flow of the water supply moves in reverse, otherwise known as backflow.  In this instance, your fresh water supply may meet contaminated water from any source cross-connected to the fresh water system, which can then flow back into your drinking water supply.

Did you know?  Cross-connection control is another name for backflow prevention, and is often used by local authorities who (in some jurisdictions) may dictate the types of backflow preventers you can use on irrigation systems, etc.

Sources of Contaminated Water

  • Toilet tanks
  • Dishwashers
  • Washing machines
  • Swimming pools
  • Lawn irrigation
  • Gutters
  • Garden hoses

Steps to Prevent Backflow from Occurring

You certainly can’t prevent a water main break or monitor the usage of water from a fire hydrant, but there are steps you can take to safeguard your own home and make sure your fresh water supply is protected from backflow contamination.

  1. Schedule an annual backflow inspection with a professional plumber to inspect and assess your fresh water supply as well as any irrigation lines to ensure there are no sources of contamination.
  2. Install a backflow preventer. A backflow preventer mechanism keeps fresh water and wastewater from cross-contaminating should the water pressure drop. This includes your irrigation system. In this case, one pipe supplies water for the home, the other for irrigation.

When water is flowing in the right direction, the backflow device remains open.  If it detects water flowing in reverse, the device will close and prevent contaminated water from entering the fresh water supply.

Types of Backflow Preventers

There are many types of backflow preventers on the market, and certain types of preventers are designed for specific areas of your home.  Because there are so many variations, it’s best to ask a local plumbing professional to recommend the best type(s) of backflow preventers you may need. Two important areas to install backflow preventers include:

Irrigation:  If your irrigation system comes from a fresh water source, then you should have a backflow preventer installed on your irrigation system.  In fact, in some locations it is required by law to have an approved backflow preventer installed.

If your irrigation water is non-potable (not drinkable), then you probably don’t need a backflow preventer installed on your irrigation system, but you’ll want to verify this with your local Outer Banks plumber or by contacting your town or village office water department.

Hose Bibb:  A hose bibb backflow preventer protects your outdoor water spigot. In the instance of a water pressure reduction, the hose bibb spring will close and a valve will open that releases backflowing water before it enters the fresh water supply.

Prevent contamination before it occurs! Contact us to schedule a home inspection or to learn more about the importance of installing backflow preventers in your home.