Do My Local Codes Require a Backflow Preventer?

With the cost of everything seemingly going up and up in recent years, we understand that just about everyone is looking for ways to stretch their budgets and save where they can, from the gas pump to the grocery store. When it comes to building projects, it’s shopping quotes from contractors or retailers and suppliers for construction materials. We’re all looking for ways to make the most of our dollars.

The question ‘Do local codes require a backflow preventer system?’ may look like a way to be cost-effective on the front end of a project, but in reality, it’s flirting with disaster. We’ll explain why below.

installed units in landscape alt v1Commercial Building Backflow Prevention, the EPA and Local Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency mandated cross-connection control in 1973, in advance of the forthcoming Safe Drinking Water Act, signed by President Ford a year later. Even though these requirements were established and have been revised over the years, how cross-connection is to be prevented remains ambiguous. The EPA kicked responsibility for detailing requirements and enforcement to the states, perhaps over concerns with running afoul of the Constitution's commerce clause, similar to situations with insurance companies. As a result, the responsibility for potable water supply quality is left to local governments.

Returning to the eponymous question, though: in the interest of fairness, no – a backflow preventer may not be required for all commercial properties, according to the Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association. Based on their information, exemptions may apply based on jurisdiction. 

This leaves a fairly big blindspot: If you’re going to go through all that trouble to get an exemption approved, why wouldn’t you go through those same channels to adhere to the codes as written?

More to the point, why do these exemptions exist in the first place? It only takes an instance of cross-connection at one property to become an entire community's problem. With the potential for grandfathering and exemptions in certain jurisdictions, does this not undermine both the letter and spirit of EPA guidance and the law?

(We won’t get into the politics of this; suffice it to say that the same government that provides the public water system for a community should have a say in how the quality of that water is upheld.)

Resources for Finding State and Local Codes for Backflow Prevention Devices

There are a number of helpful resources out there that can help you determine what equipment you need on your water lines for effective cross-connection control and backflow preventer requirements. To be clear, all U.S. building and plumbing codes require the installation of a backflow preventer. For inspection, testing, maintenance and further details, these may assist in the how and where.

At a broader level, maintains a directory for building codes in all 50 states, some of which also provide access to county-level code guidance, as well as links to some leading authorities on construction.

As with seemingly everything else, artificial intelligence is being infused into code research solutions, as well, though as you might suspect, AI-based results may not always be to-date or accurate. Some of the leading options on the market this way include UpCodes Copilot, and there are state-specific AI-powered apps in development right now for California and Utah.

Of course, there's always your county planning and zoning office for a phone call or in-person visit. (We aren't opposed to the old school approach!)

Save Now, or Spend on Installation (and Repair, and Testing, and Penalties) Later

The fact is the upfront cost of having the right backflow prevention device for your situation, and the right protection for your waterworks and your property, is a wise investment in long-term security and confidence, regardless of where you live and what regulations say you should have on your water lines.

According to a 2015 manual published by the American Water Works Association, damages resulting from a breach of duty related to cross-connection or contamination can include reasonable and necessary medical expenses, property damage, lost market value to property, loss of income, court costs, repair and any other claimed specific items of expense.

Your situation may not be similar to Corpus Christi, TX, where $2.6 million in fines were paid by companies as a result of contamination and improper backflow countermeasures. When considering the cost of a backflow incident, the exposure to liability, fines or other penalties, clean-up, elevated insurance premiums and repairing, replacing or installing a backflow preventer, making the proactive decision to install a compliant backflow prevention device outside your property and above ground and protect it with an ASSE 1060 certified enclosure wherever you live is simply a no-brainer.

At Safe-T-Cover, we believe in not only meeting, but exceeding regulatory and protective standards for waterworks equipment. Water is one of our most critical and vulnerable resources, and cross-connection is a dangerous situation for the health of the public water system, local community and the regional ecosystem. Plumbing systems should be protected with a backflow preventer, and backflow preventers should be installed above ground outside a property in an ASSE 1060 Class I compliant enclosure.

No price tag can be placed on doing things the right way. That may not exactly be thinking outside the box, but it certainly is Thinking Outside the Vault.

Ensure Proper Operation With a Safe-T-Cover Backflow Enclosure

Regardless of what your local codes dictate, protect your property, the potable water supply and yourself from potential penalties and further action with effective backflow prevention installed outdoors and above grade, protected with the best enclosure in the business from Safe-T-Cover.

Find the exact Safe-T-Cover for your backflow assembly with our sizing guide, compatible with any device, at your desk or out in the field. If your application requires an enclosure solution that doesn’t meet standard sizing or dimensions, our custom design team is available to work with you to create an enclosure to your specifications.

Best Practices in Backflow Prevention & Protection


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