What Is Backflow Prevention, and Why Is It So Important?

feature-image_backflow1200x628When you do something day after day, thinking about it all day long and talking about it with our coworkers, sometimes it’s hard to remember that people who aren’t in the industry might be completely baffled by some terminology and technology we use. Today we’re going to discuss a concept in plumbing that many people don’t even realize exists: backflow prevention.

What Is Backflow?

In a properly built system (such as your house), water only moves in one direction. It comes in through one set of pipes as freshwater and leaves via another set of pipes as wastewater. Backflow prevention devices ensure that no contaminated water can go into your freshwater pipes and contaminate your water supply.

Where Can They Be Located?

Backflow prevention devices are used throughout freshwater supply. Ones on houses can be smaller than a golf ball while those at the treatment plant will be huge and employ multiple check valves.

side-image_backflowWhy Is Backflow Prevention So Important?

We often forget that the water we’re getting is connected to the water systems of nearly every other person in the city. While you have your own pipes coming into your home, think of how it gets to you: your freshwater pipes connect to your neighborhood pipes, which connect to city pipes, which connect to the city fresh water treatment plant, which is getting its water from rivers and reservoirs across the front range.

So why is backflow prevention so important? If you didn’t have backflow prevention, contaminated water could be siphoned back into your home’s and neighborhood’s water supply. One of the most common concerns involve garden hoses. Without backflow prevention, fertilizer attachment bottles like this one that have a nozzle on one end and a hose attachment on the other could have their contents sucked into the freshwater system should there be a pressure change.

How Can Backflow Occur?

Backflow occurs due to one of two scenarios: back-siphonage and back-pressure. Back-siphonage occurs when high-pressure contaminated water is pulled into the system due to a lower pressure area. Back-pressure occurs when water is pushed into a system. Both are highly undesirable.

What Are Some Examples or Backflow Preventers?

Backflow prevention occurs throughout your house, but the ones that most people see are at the exterior of your home. Water spigots are required to have backflow prevention devices, so if you’ve ever wondered what that extra knob is on top of the spigot is when you’re hooking up your garden hose, now you know. Another place you’ll find them is in sprinkler systems. The pressure vacuum breaker prevents backflow, and unfortunately is the most likely part to freeze and break if you don’t blow your sprinklers out every fall.

If you’ve noticed that your water spigots or backflow preventers have cracked, make sure to call a local plumber in order to get them fixed. After all, under certain circumstances you could poison your home’s water supply, as well as that of your neighbors. For all of your plumbing needs, contact Garvin’s and we’ll get everything flowing in the right direction!