Above-ground backflow assemblies are paying off for a lot of people in Las Vegas. Just ask Doa Meade. She’s the director of infrastructure management for the Las Vegas Valley Water District and loves to talk about how above-ground installations for valves, backflow preventers and meters are saving people money.
“The truly unique part of what we’re doing is that we are pulling the meter out of the vault and putting it into the same enclosure as the above-ground-backflow preventer,” Meade says. It’s a move that’s not only safer and cost-effective, but it’s also not taking up any additional space on the property.
So, let’s look at how (and why) above-ground backflow assemblies are hitting it big with designers and engineers in Vegas.
Utility Vaults Are Expensive to Repair
Underground utility vaults develop many issues. “The concrete wears away, the rebar inside the vault can be exposed and it’s not structurally sound, so we have to do a vault rehab,” Meade says.
Vault rehabs cost money. “We have to remove the deck of the vault and add additional concrete and structural components inside to rebuild the vault. There’s a lot of time and money involved in that.”
And rehabbing a utility vault may only buy another 10 years (or less) before it will have to be rebuilt again.
Utility Vaults Are Dangerous
There are always unknowns when someone has to go into a vault, which makes it more dangerous.
“Even if we go out and find the vault is in good condition, it’s still a confined-space entry,” Meade says. “You need two people minimum for the job, sometimes you need fall protection depending on how deep the vault is and sometimes you have to drop a sump pump in there to clean the vault out first. And that’s not to mention the ‘creepy-crawlies’ that find their way in there.”
The price on all of these precautions adds up. It can cost up to $5,000 annually because a vault requires a lot more safety preparation upfront.
Above-Ground Backflow Enclosures Save Time
Meade says using above-ground backflow assemblies significantly reduces construction cost and time for the developer. The same can’t be said about utility vaults.
“They’re cast in place and it takes a lot of time because they have to reach a strength of concrete on the floor before they can pour the walls, and then they have to reach a strength of the concrete before they can pour the deck (the roof). All of this has to happen before you take a drop of water on your property, which is at least a month, whereas, if you go above ground, all you’re pouring is a concrete pad.”
Backflow prevention assemblies in an aluminum backflow enclosure can be up and running in as little as a week. Putting it in a utility vault could take months. And the cost comparison isn’t fair.
Above-Ground Backflow Enclosures Save Money
Meade recently did a detailed cost analysis of above-ground installation versus vault installation and found significant savings. As much as $60,000 can be saved when installing backflows and meters in the same outdoor, above-ground enclosure. And there’s another benefit.
“We’re able to do this in the same footprint as the vault,” Meade says. “We don’t have to take up any more real estate.”
Start saving time and money, and stop putting your people in danger every time they have to climb into an underground utility vault. There’s a better way to protect your backflow preventer and meter.