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What's in Your Water: Backflow Prevention Programs

Posted By Allie Barcome on November 08, 2016


Do you have an active backflow prevention program? Is your backflow prevention program compliant with Indiana Administrative Code? Are you sure your municipal drinking water system is safe from contamination from cross-connections or backflow from private water systems?... If you answered "No" or "I don't know" to any of these questions, read on to learn more about keeping your drinking water safe.

Before we dive in, we need to know exactly what a cross-connection is and what is backflow. A cross-connection is any physical arrangement where a potable water supply is connected, directly or indirectly, to a water supply or device that may contain unsafe contaminants or pollutants.

Backflow can occur when changes in water pressure in a system creates a suction effect causing water to reverse its flow and backflow into the public water system. Without barriers to prevent a backflow event, water from private systems could flow into our public systems causing contamination of the water supply. Not only can backflow be prevented, but backflow prevention devices are required in many states, including Indiana. 

Indiana Administrative Code 327 8-10, Facilities That Require a Backflow Prevention Device, mandates that certain residential, commercial and industrial customers served by a public water system install and maintain backflow prevention devices within water service lines. The state only requires certain customers provide backflow prevention devices and these devices must be approved by the State.

“The consumer has the primary responsibility of preventing pollutants and contaminants from entering their potable water system or the public potable water system. The consumer’s responsibility starts at the point of delivery from the public water supply and includes all water conditioning equipment and piping. When it is determined that a cross connection exists on the customer’s water line, the consumer shall be required to:

  • Install an approved backflow prevention assembly at each service connection at their own expense.
  • Properly repair and maintain the device or devices.

So you may be thinking this is the customer's responsibility and there is nothing you, the drinking water utility or purveyor, need to do. Think again! Your IDEM inspector may ask you, or may have  already asked, about your community's backflow prevention ordinance and inspection program. As the water purveyor, your community should have an ordinance in place and enforced, requiring certain water customers to install and maintain proper backflow prevention devices.

According to IDEM's Cross Connection Control & Backflow Prevention ManualTo ensure that the proper precautions are taken, the purveyor shall:

  • Exercise reasonable vigilance to ensure that the customer has taken the proper steps to protect the public water system.
  • Require the customer to install an approved backflow prevention assembly with respect to the degree of hazard when it is determined that a prohibited cross connection exists. The customer will be responsible for installation at their own expense, testing immediately upon installation, subsequent testing per regulations, proper repair and maintenance of the assembly, and keeping adequate records of each test.
  • Maintain a list of their customers who require backflow devices along with the type and location of each device. This list shall be available for inspection by IDEM staff upon request.
  • Obtain from the backflow tester a copy (electronic, hard copy or any form as required by the purveyor) of each backflow device test report and keep the three most recent reports for review and inspection by IDEM staff.
  • Ensure customers’ backflow assemblies are approved by the appropriate organization at the time of installation. If the assembly was not approved at the time of installation, the water purveyor must notify the customer that an approved assembly needs to be installed.

Sounds like a lot of work! Did you know you might be able to get assistance with managing your backflow prevention program once it is in place at no cost to the utility? We know you are probably thinking “Yeah, right! That is impossible.” We are here to tell you it is not.  Wessler has worked with several communities to ensure proper cross connection control and backflow prevention requirements are met. Have questions or want to know more?  Contact us at 317-788-4551 or send us an email and one of our engineers will contact you.

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