Why Backflow Test?

KidDrinkingWaterIs Backflow Testing Really needed?  People often wonder why they need to test their backflow assembly. Many people believe that their local water district makes money off of backflow testing and that is the reason it is required. The fact is, backflow testing is required by the State Department of Health to protect the public drinking water supply and it actually cost your local water district money to protect the quality of the water they supply to you and me. Anyone that has ever created a siphon to drain water from something knows that water can siphoned up or down hill. Backflow assemblies stop water from siphoning which means they prevent contaminants from being siphoned back into the public drinking water supply if the system ever loses pressure. Pressure loss in water systems is more common than you might think. Some of the reasons for pressure loss are main line breaks, pump failures, system maintenance, and modification, and fire extinguishing. Even pressure fluctuations can cause water to siphon backwards. If you are managing a water system these kinds of events are a daily occurrence. For many years proper backflow assemblies were only required to be installed but not tested. Realizing that it makes no sense to require backflow protection to be installed but not confirm that it works the Department of Health made it a requirement that all water systems that use water for a non-potable use (basically for something other than drinking water) have an approved backflow assembly and this assembly must be tested annually to confirm it is properly working and providing protection to the public drinking water supply. Backflow assemblies protect a variety of water systems with different hazard levels. The highest hazards are usually found in medical and industrial complexes however high hazard backflow assemblies also protect all restaurant soda machines. The danger with soda is if it comes in contact with copper piping it creates a poisonous compound that can either make you very sick or in some cases it can kill you. While the danger of a landscape sprinkler system contaminating the public drinking water supply are considerable less than a soda machine there is still a very real danger. For homes with septic systems that backup or fail, sprinkler heads could be submerged in these areas and could siphon septic water or lawn fertilizers back into the drinking water supply. In western Washington we are lucky to have access to one of the most pristine water reservoirs in the country. The Chester Morse reservoir is located in the Cascade mountain range just east of Seattle.  Unlike many reservoirs the entire watershed is off limits to the public including no water or road access.  Personally I think it is worth the small cost to protect the water that we all drink.