As a homeowner, if you receive your potable water from a water well, it falls on you to protect the quality of your water source.This includes maintaining your water system, pump, plumbing, and any other related items within your system. Backflow is an issue that if not addressed, can result in unintentional contamination of your water source.
Let’s examine exactly what constitutes backflow, cross connection, and how you can protect your water well from unintentional contamination using a backflow prevention device.
What Is Backflow?
Backflow happens when water is flowing through pipes, plumbing or hoses in the wrong direction from normal flow. This can happen when the water pressure changes or drops. This reversed flow may allow chemicals or other contaminants to enter a drinking water system, or private well.
Cross-connections pose a similar risk. A cross connection exists when plumbing is connected in a way that any source of non-potable water (for example, a dishwasher, or laundry sink drain) can enter the piping system for drinking water. In many locations, current municipal codes prohibit the cross-connection of water supply and utility lines.
Changes in water pressure can occur through any number of issues, for example breaks in electrical power, pipe failure, or excessive use of water from a fixture connected to the same system, especially if there are down gradient uses.
Prevention devices are designed and installed to prevent this from happening. The two most common devices are The Reduced Pressure Zone Assembly (RP)and the Double Check Valve Assembly (DC) . Most municipalities require some form of backflow prevention device. As the owner of a private well, it is in your best interest to install a device to protect your water supply.
The RP system is designed to prevent against potential health threats like sewage, medical waste and chemicals. The DC unit is used most often to protect utility systems from non-health hazards such as such as odor, color or taste. These sources include well water, pool water, or non toxic products like food coloring or dyes.
Are You At Risk?
Over half of backflows and cross connection problems involve garden hoses. Luckily, these are easily preventable by installing simple fittings between the spigot and garden hose. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you are potentially at risk. Without a device, your garden hose and anything in it, or connected to it has the potential to create a backflow problem.
- Have you ever used your hose to:
- fill a pool?
- flush your car radiator?
- fill a fish pond?
- supply water to horses or other animals?
- flush a clogged septic line or drain?
- Mix garden chemicals in a bucket?
- Do you use recycled gray water (laundry or shower) in an irrigation system?
- Do you have both a well and a connection to a local utility supply?
- Do you have a lawn sprinkler system?
If you answered yes to any of these questions you should install a protection device between your hose bib (spigot) and your house. These are simple devices that are inexpensive and available at any hardware store. They are designed to create an air gap, preventing any problems.
If you are unsure if your home is protected by a device contact your well water professional. They can perform an inspection and if needed, install protection devices inside your home, or at the main line, to protect your family from inadvertently contaminating the aquifer or municipal line. It’s a simple, and cost-effective way to keep your well safe.