4 Things You Need to Know About Backflow Prevention

Much of modern life depends on clean, clear water. Numerous plumbing regulations and procedures help homeowners maintain fresh water for cooking daily meals, brewing coffee, and washing clothes. One way plumbers assist homeowners with this is through the use of backflow testing and backflow prevention devices.

Backflow systems are complex and their regulations vary in each municipality. We’ve put together the basics of backflow prevention below. Continue reading to learn about four things every homeowner should know about backflow.

1. What is Backflow?

As the name suggests, backflow is plumbing water flowing the wrong direction—back up the pipes—due to changes in water pressure. This water may emerge from drains, toilets, or outdoor water system drainages. Backflow contamination can pose a health hazard, which is why most buildings have plumbing devices that prevent water reversal.

2. What Dangers Does Backflow Pose?

Your pipes connect to a range of water sources and destinations—from municipal reservoirs to septic systems. When water flows in the wrong direction, water from multiple sources mixes. This contamination falls under one of the following categories:

  • No Risk: In a no risk backflow situation, water comes up from a potable source. This water is essentially identical to your normal water. This situation is not urgent, though you should call a plumber to correct the water flow issue and prevent future issues.
  • Superficial Quality Changes: Like no risk backflow situations, superficially changed water is safe to use. However, depending on the source of the backflow, the process alters the water. For example, the water may have come into contact with a heat source or with non-dangerous mineral deposits.
  • Low Toxicity: Water with low toxicity may result in minor illness if ingested. This happens when the backflow runs from a source with non-potable, but nontoxic, sources. These sources include cold water storage tanks and untreated natural water reservoirs.
  • Significant Hazard: Water contaminated with pool chemicals, irrigation water, or pesticides poses a significant hazard. It may cause serious illness that requires hospitalization.
  • Serious Health Risk: When backflow contains toxic materials, like human waste, it poses a serious health risk. Have a plumber take care of this problem as soon as possible to minimize the risks.

Canadians experience more than 10,000 backflow cases each year, many of which lead to severe health issues for home and business owners. That’s why it is essential that you know the signs of backflow and do your part to prevent it.

3. How Do You Recognize Contaminated Water?

If your home or apartment has a backflow problem, you may notice any of the following:

  • Back Up from Pipes: In most cases, you’ll be able to spot backflow immediately. You will notice water coming up your drains and pooling in your tub or shower, sinks, and near your sprinkler system hookups.
  • Change in Water Colour: Discoloured water is another common sign of backflow problems. Water coloured by backflow is usually brown, though it may also be yellow or pink. As this can result from a number of plumbing issues, it’s important to have a plumber inspect your system when you notice water colour changes.
  • Foul Odours from Your Drains: Like discolouration, odours may be symptomatic of problems other than backflow. Contact a plumber if you notice strong smells from a drain, especially if they come with discharge from the drain in question.

4. How Do I Do My Part to Prevent Backflow?

In Vancouver, most commercial and some residential properties already have backflow devices in place. These devices protect the municipal water supply from a number of contaminants. These contaminants include pool chemicals, fertilizers, and residential pesticides. But these devices also protect you from inconvenience, health hazards, and water damage.

If you do not currently have a backflow prevention system, experts recommend having a professional plumber install one if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • Are a pool or spa owner
  • Have an indoor sprinkler system
  • Heat your home with a boiler, especially one that uses antifreeze
  • Use an irrigation system
  • Use an alternative water source, such as a stream, spring, or well

You must have your backflow prevention device inspected at the following times:

  • When a technician installs it
  • When and if it is ever removed or replaced
  • Once a year after installation

An annual inspection safeguards against major hazards that could result from regular wear and tear to your backflow system’s parts.

Backflow can be a serious problem. Luckily, modern plumbing minimizes the risk of contamination for both homes and water supply sources. If you have concerns about the possibility of backflow in your house or apartment, call our professional plumbers at Hillcrest Plumbing & Heating immediately.

In most cases, regular maintenance prevents the health and property risks posed by backflow. Learn more about the building and water quality codes in your area to do your part to prevent water contamination.

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