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What is a Backflow Device and Why is it Important?

St. Louis, Missouri, has a proud history of great tap water. According to the City of St. Louis Water Division, over a century of regular testing has yet to reveal any federal or state regulatory violations. As such, most city residents have good reason to fully trust that the water coming from their tap is safe to drink.

To maintain this standard, St. Louis makes an effort to continue providing clean water to all buildings and homes. One of these efforts comes in the form of backflow prevention devices, required to be installed in every home and building in St. Louis County. Additionally, these devices must be tested once per year, according to the St. Louis County Department of Public Works Division of Code Enforcement.

What Is Backflow?

Backflow preventerBackflow is the reverse flow of dirty water through the clean water lines. Dirty water can be contaminated with feces, pesticides, chemicals, fertilizer and other hazardous materials, and causes a serious health hazard. Backflow can occur at cross-connections between potable and non-potable water in any residential, commercial or industrial system. Water is carried to your home through a series of pipes beneath the city. All of your neighbors are connected to the same system of pipes. Theoretically, if water can travel to your home via this network, it can also flow away from your home by the same path.

The water going to your home has been treated by the city and is safe to drink. The same guarantee cannot be applied to water flowing away from your home. Back-pressure backflow can occur when large amounts of water are used in a particular area, such as when a firefighter uses water from a fire hydrant. This decrease in pressure can cause water to flow back toward its source - the city's water supply.

To prevent potential contamination, backflow prevention devices are installed. These are commonly in the form of reduced pressure backflow prevention assemblies, which include two spring-loaded valves that physically block water from flowing the wrong way. These devices might look complicated, but to the experts at Roto-Rooter, inspecting these is second nature. If you haven't had yours checked out in the past year, reach out to your local St. Louis Roto-Rooter.

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