A water system’s function is to bring clean water into your home and carry dirty water out. However, differences in pressure can cause water to flow in the opposite direction the water is intended to flow, leading to a backflow.

Backflow testing is important because it ensures your water system works as intended. So, what is backflow testing?

Water supply lines typically run in one direction which is from the supply to your home. However, if your water system loses pressure the water can start to run the other way. This is called backflow.

Backflow is bad because your clean drinking water gets contaminated with dirty used water. Contaminants such as sewage, cleaning chemicals, and other kinds of pollutants can make their way into your water system, posing a health risk to you and your family. Typically, backflow is caused by one of two things:

Backpressure occurs when the pressure of your water system is higher than your water tank’s pressure. The imbalance results in contaminated water moving in the opposite direction it was intended.

Back siphoning occurs when water pressure drops too quickly after an overuse. For example, back siphoning might occur if you use several water faucets and appliances at once. It also commonly happens after civic drainage procedures.

Generally, backflow happens during water main breaks, power outages, pump malfunctions, old or broken pipe replacement, or pressure drops due to leaks.

Due to the threat backflow poses, most water systems use devices to ensure water remains flowing in the correct direction. A series of sensors and valves are used to keep contaminated water out and ensure that the water is clean to use and drink. This is common in residential plumbing, but also in industrial and agricultural plumbing as well. If your prevention system fails, your water can become contaminated with many harmful pollutants resulting in injury or illness.

Backflow testing is recommended and often mandated in certain states and counties, to be tested at least once a year by a plumbing professional.  Health safety, environmental safety, appliance and water damage, and community health are all very important reasons to keep your backflow preventers in top condition.