Cross Connection and Backflow Prevention
Protecting Your Drinking Water Supply is also your Responsibility!
What is a cross connection?
A physical connection between a possible source of contamination and the public drinking water system piping. This connection, if not properly protected, can lead to the contamination of the drinking water system through a backflow event.
What is backflow?
Backflow is the reversal of water flow through a cross connection from a possible source of contamination into the public drinking water system. Backflow may be caused by either backpressure or backsiphonage. A loss of pressure in the public drinking water system may lead to backsiphonage through unprotected cross connections, or backpressure may be created when the water pressure of a facility’s internal water system is elevated above the supply pressure of the public drinking water system resulting in backflow through unprotected cross connections.
What can you do to prevent backflow situations in your home or business?
• Be aware of and eliminate and/or protect cross connections.
• Maintain air gaps on sinks and when using hoses.
• Do not submerge hoses or place them where they could become submerged.
• Use hose bib vacuum breakers on fixtures (hose connections in the basement, laundry room, and on outside faucets/spigots).
• Install approved backflow prevention devices on lawn irrigation systems and on fire sprinkler system services.
• Do not create a connection between an auxiliary water system (well, cistern, body of water) and the water supply plumbing.
Who is responsible?
• The responsibility for preventing backflow is divided. In general, state and local plumbing inspectors have authority over plumbing systems within buildings while state regulatory agencies and public water suppliers regulate protection of the distribution system at each service connection.
• Water customers have the ultimate responsibility for properly maintaining their plumbing systems.
• It is the water customer’s responsibility to ensure that unprotected cross-connections are not created and that any required backflow prevention devices are tested in accordance with state requirements and maintained in operable condition.
Why should you be concerned?
• Backflow may affect the quality of the drinking water at your facility and has the potential to create health hazards if contaminated water enters your water supply plumbing system and is used for drinking, cooking or bathing.
• Backflow events occur more often than you might think although most do not create health hazards.
• Unprotected cross-connections with water supply plumbing or public drinking water piping systems are prohibited by law.
• You are responsible for protecting your water supply plumbing from backflow that may contaminate your drinking water and the drinking water of others. This includes complying with the plumbing code and not creating unprotected cross connections.
Who is responsible for having the backflow device tested?
It is the responsibility of the property owner to have the backflow device tested by a qualified tester. It is also the responsibility of the property / business owner to schedule their own test appointment.
Who tests the backflow devices?
Only qualified testers that have completed cross connection training courses and hold the appropriate state certification(s) may perform the backflow device test.
Where can I find a list of qualified testers in my area?
Please check with Iowa American Water’s Cross Connection Department at 1-563-468-9210. A list of certified testers can also be found by checking the Iowa Department of Public Health website (www.idph.state.ia.us).
I have an in ground lawn sprinkler system at my residence. Am I required to have a backflow device and have it tested?
In ground sprinkler systems are required to have a reduced pressure principle backflow prevention device installed on the water line servicing the system. The backflow device must also be periodically tested in accordance with the state testing requirements.
Who pays for the testing and how much does it cost?
It is the responsibility of the property owner to pay for any testing and/or required repairs to the backflow device. Cost will vary with existing device location conditions and type of device. Please review pricing requirements with the selected test company/tester before having the test performed.
Will this cause any disruption in my water service?
Testing does require the flow of water to be stopped through the backflow device during the test process resulting in a short service interruption. The testing can be scheduled through the test company/tester for a time that will be convenient for the property owner.
How often do I have to have my backflow device tested?
Backflow devices are required to be tested at the time of installation, repair, or relocation and not less than on an annual schedule thereafter, or more often when required by the Authority Having Jurisdiction.
Do I submit the test to American Water or does the test company/tester do this for me?
Usually the test company/tester submits the completed test form for their clients to the water company. If there is any doubt who will submit the test form, check with the test company/tester to verify who will be submitting the test form.
The test company/tester filled out their current test form to submit instead of American Water’s test form. Is this ok?
American Water will gladly accept test forms other than our own as long as the backflow device information, testing information and customer information is complete and legible on the test form.
If I cannot get my device tested in time to meet the required deadline what should I do?
Please call Iowa American Water’s Cross Connection Department at 1-563-468-9210 to discuss possible extensions and/or resolutions.
I received a survey on my water usage at my facilities. What is this about?
American Water conducts periodic surveys of their customers’ use of water to identify and eliminate possible sources of cross connections to help ensure the safety of the public water supply. The information collected through the surveys helps to identify where backflow prevention devices may be needed as well as providing information on existing devices that may not have been previously submitted to the water company.
Iowa American Water Cross Connection Control Program Description
Cross Connection Control Water Survey Questionnaire
Iowa American Water Test Form