Backflow is what happens when a sudden pressure drop sucks undesirable liquids into the home’s water supply, such as a sewer line. Anywhere that has plumbing connections to multiple different liquid sources can have a backflow problem under the right circumstances. This can obviously pose quite a health risk, depending on the other source of liquid. In the interest of solving this problem, many public water supplies are equipped with backflow prevention devices. Read on to discover how backflow can happen, why it’s such a health risk, and how a backflow preventer can keep you safe.
What Causes Backflow?
Backflow is caused by a sudden change in pressure in your water line, whether due to frozen or ruptured pipes, temperature increases, or any one of a dozen other factors. There are actually two different kinds of backflow. Back pressure is when the pressure in your water system increases for some reason, exceeding the level of pressure in the supply. Back siphonage is when the pressure in the water supply is lowered below the pressure in your water system. Either way, the result is the same: the system stops drawing water from the supply and instead begins to suck fluid in from another source. Connections between two different liquid supplies and a water system are called “cross-connections,” and all such connections are at risk for backflow.
Why is it a Problem?
Backflow is an issue because a lot of the liquid supplies the water system might accidentally intake are not safe for human exposure, and certainly not human consumption. Taking a shower and suddenly being drenched with sewer water is not at all healthy, but having sewer water coming out of your taps is even worse. Backflow can contain pesticides, poisonous minerals, human waste, and all sorts of other things that pose an extreme health risk to people. For this reason, backflow preventers are necessary.
What is a Backflow Preventer?
A backflow preventer is a device that is designed to do just that: prevent backflow. This is often done by simply providing an air pocket between your water system and the supply. This pocket prevents backflow by providing an impassible gap between the water system and the contaminated supply. It is highly recommended that you install a backflow preventer if you have any cross-connections in your water supply.