What is Backflow Testing?  Why is it important?


Colorado State Statutes and Public Water Supplies:

Colorado State Statutes require all public water suppliers to protect the potable water supply (drinking water) from contamination from “cross-connections” to the public water system and the consumer’s system.  (Regulation 11, Section 11.39).   A ”cross-connection” is a point or connection where it may be possible for a “nonpotable” substance or contaminant to come into contact with the potable system.  Typical cross connections include sprinkler/irrigation systems, hot tubs, pools, water features, cooling systems, garden hoses, fire suppression systems, and any chemical use by residential or industrial activities that have connections to the potable water systems. Backflow entering the potable water systems from any of these connections, or others, can cause serious illness. For that reason, the State of Colorado requires that water suppliers/utilities provide cross-connection control with specific programs to protect the public.

Backflow Prevention Device:

A backflow prevention device, (also referred to as “backflow preventer” or “vacuum breaker”), is required to be installed and tested on all sprinkler systems connected to potable water.* A Backflow Preventer is a device that prevents the “backflow” of contaminants or non-potable water into the potable (drinking water)  system.

*Sprinkler systems connected directly only to irrigation water, lakes or ponds (and not to any drinking or domestic water use supply) do not require installation of a backflow preventer.

Backflow Testing:  

Because of this requirement most Colorado municipalities require backflow testing to be done by a Certified Backflow Tester following the installation of the backflow preventer on a new sprinkler system, and require the testing form to be submitted as part of the sprinkler permit process.  Many municipalities also require, or recommend, periodic backflow testing following the initial installation, usually every 1 -3 years.  The backflow preventer device, or vacuum breaker, contains various parts, valves and seals.  Just like any other mechanical part, these can break down or become faulty over time.  For that reason, ongoing periodic testing of your sprinkler backflow is usually recommended to prevent contamination of your drinking water.

Certified Backflow Testers:

The State of Colorado mandates that all Backflow testing be done only by a Certified Backflow Tester.  Testers undergo extensive training and testing to become certified, and must recertify every 3 years. Once the test is performed, the results are submitted by the tester to the applicable individual water supplier; ie: City of Fort Collins, Town of Wellington, City of Loveland, etc.  


For More Information about Backflow Testing, Please See the Following Links: 

Colo. Dept of Public Health and Environment – Drinking Water Backflow Prevention 

American Backflow Prevention Assoc.

Colorado State University Extension