Have you ever heard the term “backflow” but aren’t sure exactly what it means? Backflow is a serious plumbing issue to be aware of. Backflow occurs when a clean, or potable, water supply reverses, bringing potentially contaminated water back into your home or business.
Backflow can be a potential health issue when contaminated water is used for drinking, washing dishes or other uses where it may be ingested or come into contact with open wounds or mucous membranes.
Backflow can also corrode plumbing pipes, causing leaks. The professionals at Indiana American Water discuss what causes backflow and how to prevent it, and the importance of protecting your home or business with a properly maintained and installed backflow prevention device if required by law.
What Causes Backflow?
Instead of going away from your home, backflow can cause wastewater to reverse and go back into your home through your water lines. This leads to cross connection, which is a physical connection when the potable water supply mixes with non-potable water that may contain sewage, gas, solids or other contaminants.
There are two types of backflow. One of the most common types of backflow is called backpressure. Backpressure backflow occurs when the pressure of the contaminated water exceeds the positive pressure of the water distribution main. The pressure difference can be caused by many things, including if a piece of equipment in your home suddenly generates more pressure than the pressure in the water distribution lines. For example, if your hot water boiler system is connected to your plumbing system and does not have an approved and functioning backflow preventer, the pressure of the system could suddenly increase and cause a backflow of contaminated water into the potable water system.
Back siphonage, meanwhile, is caused by negative water pressure (vacuum or partial vacuum) in the water distribution system. This situation is similar in effect to the sipping of water through a straw. Negative pressure in your plumbing system can occur when a fire hydrant is used for firefighting or due to a broken water main.
If any of these issues occur because of a malfunctioning backflow preventer or the absence of one in your home or business, the water can potentially be contaminated and would not be safe to use for consumption.
Some signs that you may potentially have backflow include odor coming from the water, discolored water, or particles in the water. If you suspect a backflow issue, contact a plumber or your local water utility immediately.
Who’s Responsible for Preventing Backflow?
Everyone plays a role in protecting the drinkable water supply from contaminations due to backflow. The responsibility of backflow prevention, though, is often divided.
It’s the job of public water suppliers and state regulatory agencies to regulate the protection of the water distribution system at service connections. However, water customers must also ensure their plumbing systems and water-using fixtures are maintained and properly installed to prevent backflow from occurring.
In Indiana, some customers are required to install and maintain backflow prevention devices on their main water service lines and some devices. These devices should be properly maintained and tested regularly in accordance with state requirements.
If any of the devices below are connected to a residential plumbing system, a backflow protection device must be installed on the incoming water service line as close as possible to the water meter:
- Sewer ejector pump
- Rainwater collection system
- Greywater system
- Groundwater well
- Recycled water system
- Septic system
- Irrigation or another auxiliary water system
We also recommend that homeowners install hose bib vacuum breakers on all hose bibs.
Backflow preventers are installed in your plumbing system or certain devices. They allow water to flow into your home’s plumbing system while preventing water from flowing in reverse. If you’ve had issues with backflow in the past or are unsure if you have a backflow prevention device installed in your home or business, talk to a local plumber so they can inspect your system for you.
Click here for additional information on our website on backflow prevention and cross-connection control.
Indiana American Water Is Committed to Protecting Your Water Supply
Indiana American Water continues to protect its water supply from regulated contaminants that can pose potential health and environmental concerns. To read more about the steps we’re taking to improve your water quality, check out our website at https://amwater.com/inaw/.