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The Importance of Backflow Preventers: Protecting Your Water Supply from Contamination




Do you know 71% of the earth’s surface is filled with water, but only 1.2% of it is drinkable? Water plays an undeniably important role in sustaining life for all life forms. Drinking clean and pure water is significantly essential for overall health. But have you ever experienced switching on the tap with the expectation of getting pure water, but instead, you get polluted water? However, this can occur if backflow takes place, but no worries, as you can prevent it by using backflow preventers to help safeguard the water supply.

Let’s explore what might be the problems backflow can cause and how backflow preventers prevent it and work.

Understanding Backflow and Its Factors and Risks

If you are wondering how backflow can pollute the water system, its risks, and its causes, here you go.

What is backflow?

An action that occurs in plumbing systems where the flow of water moves oppositely from the intended direction is called backflow. It should be treated as it has the potential to risk the health of community members, especially where they use water that has been contaminated with foul water.

Factors Leading to Backflow

Some of the other factors that lead to the backflow are:

  • Back Pressure:  Backflow usually occurs when pressure is likely to reduce in the pipe system, and this could result in the flow of water in the reverse direction. This is likely going to happen when the pressure in the supply line is lower than the pressure in the pipes or fixtures connected to it.
  • Broken Water Mains: Breaching of a water main can lead to a state where the pressure in the distribution system is relatively low. Resulting in pollutants from surrounding soils or other sources can then find their way into the water supply through backflow.
  • Hose Connected to Contaminated Source: Using a hose to draw water from a non-potable source, like a chemical tank, poses a backflow risk. If hose pressure surpasses that of the potable water system, contaminated water may flow back, introducing harmful chemicals into the drinking water supply undetected by traditional measures.

Risks of Backflow

What could be more devastating when you are consuming contaminated water that directly affects your health? Some threats caused by harmful substances in water, like bacteria, pesticides, and chemicals, are:


  • Waterborne diseases
  • Costly medical bills to get treated
  • Expensive repairs for cleaning contamination
  • Legal property liabilities, if not taken care of the property and it got dirty

What Is a Backflow Preventer?

Let’s jump to the topic of how you can solve this problem with backflow preventers.

A backflow preventer is a device that prevents the flow of water in a reverse direction and thereby prevents impurities from getting into water supply systems. These devices function by permitting water to flow in one direction, with the ability to shut if water starts to surge in the opposite direction.

Types of Backflow Preventers

As mentioned before, there are many types of backflow preventers available in the market, such as:

  • Air Gaps: These create a physical space between the supply of water and the potential sources of contamination.
  • Check Valves: They utilize a spring to close the check valve against backflow.
  • Reduced Pressure Zone Assemblies: They provide the highest level of protection and work according to each pressure difference to prevent backflow.

However, backflow preventers require proper installation, initial setup, and even routine maintenance practices to operate at their optimum level. They should ideally be fitted by qualified plumbers who will familiarize themselves with the water systems of that region and thoroughly check and clean them for optimal functioning.

The Role of Backflow Preventers in Protecting Water Supplies

Backflow preventers serve an essential purpose as they have health protection implications since the general public is at risk of being affected by contaminated drinking water. They act as barriers to waterborne diseases because they hinder any contaminated water from getting into the water supply meant for drinking purposes.


One scene can be noticed as a backflow preventer significantly contributed to avoiding a serious contamination incident in a Florida city in 2013 when a water supply pressure loss occurred due to construction work. Still, they used it.

How Backflow Preventer Works?

Backflow preventers use two check valves to create a low-pressure vacuum, and its operation is as follows. When the pressure at the low-pressure chamber increases, which should ideally cause backflow, water is forced out through a rotating disk valve known as a relief valve. This will continue to stay open until the pressure builds up and swings back to a stabilized pressure.

To prevent water from flowing back, you need backflow preventers when discharging a lot of water. Therefore, the relief valve is usually installed in an area where water damage won’t occur, and drainage is present. Backflow preventers eliminate pollution by preventing polluted water from flowing into natural water sources, thus enhancing the environment stock. It decreases the potential of causing damage to lower life forms and other aquatic life forms in waters as long as contaminants do not penetrate the water supply.

Water Safety Regulations

State and local laws and federal laws require the use of backflow preventers to stop unsafe water from entering the general water system. Opposition to the Safe Drinking Water Act involves resisting the regulations aimed at ensuring water safety and quality. Thus, by obeying these regulations, communities will reduce the chances of pollutant intrusion and safeguard the well-being of people.

Implementation and Practices

It is important to install and select a suitable backflow preventer, which depends on a number of factors, including the property type and usage of water. For example, the commercial building categorized under risk will need more sophisticated devices, such as reduced pressure zone assemblies. Meanwhile, residential buildings can easily be protected with simple check valves. It is better to consult with experts to determine the solution that best suits your needs.

Installation Stages and Problems

This is regarding the procedure for installing them, which has stages that include

  • an evaluation of the water system
  • The choice of the best device to install
  • the placement of the device for maximizing effect.

Some difficulties may arise during installation, for example, lack of space or alternating access, but can easily be avoided through consultation with specialists in the building and construction industry.

It is a normal practice to conduct testing and certification regularly for backflow preventers in order to ensure that they are functioning properly. Some of the local authorities demand such tests to be undertaken rarely but annually by certified professionals. These tests and any maintenance activity carried out on these machines require documentation for compliance and other future considerations.

Challenges and Future Directions

All the same, you can observe that backflow prevention has its attendant problems, such as compliance and enforcement. Some property owners may be unaware of the rules, and or they may not habitually exercise proper maintenance on their property. This is also a disadvantage of new backflow preventers since they are governed by technological disparities that may reduce the efficiency of functioning backflow preventers.

However, recent advances can make backflow prevention devices more efficient and dependable. Such items are becoming easier to maintain, and with the help of advanced materials and designs, these devices are turning into better ones. We are likely to expect the development of smart backflow preventers that can track water flow in real-time and inform homeowners of such problems in the future.

Public Awareness

Implementing IT governance presents these challenges, and to overcome them, it is crucial to educate and raise awareness. Education campaigns in such areas can easily be developed to ensure that property owners acquire enough knowledge about the backflow preventers as well as how to have them maintained. Programs underway by the local water authorities and the plumbing associations are resourceful by offering necessary information and support.


To conclude, backflow preventers are crucial to ensure that the water supply does not get contaminated. A practical understanding of regulation, maintenance of backflow preventers, and their continued education is vital for the most effective and efficient use of these systems. We all have a part in the protection of our water supply, which is why it is essential to have the necessary precautions put in place to prevent danger to the Greater Population and the environment as a whole. Have you ever used a backflow preventer?

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