What is Backflow Testing and Why do You Need One?

Clean water is essential to health and safety. One way to ensure the cleanliness and safety of water is backflow testing. But what is it? Continue reading to learn more about it and to know why you should have one performed in your home.

What is Backflow Testing?

Backflow testing refers to inspecting backflow prevention devices or backflow preventers to ensure the integrity and proper functioning of the mentioned apparatus for clean and safe drinking water. 

Backflow preventers must undergo yearly testing with the help of a plumbing professional to ensure they’re in good working condition. Homeowners can contact a local plumbing company to inspect their backflow prevention devices to comply with municipal plumbing codes.

Backflow Prevention 101

Before going to the benefits of backflow testing, it’s important to understand how backflow prevention works.

Water distribution systems are designed to maintain a significant pressure to allow water to flow from the faucet, shower, and other water fixtures. A good functioning backflow preventer protects clean water supplies from polluted or contaminated water due to backflow.

However, when water pressure occurs due to burst or frozen pipes, polluted water from other sources travels backward – soon entering the potable water distribution system. That’s when air gap and backflow prevention devices come into play. 

Here are the two common types of backflow prevention devices for residential use: 

Air Gap 

Air Gap in Dishwasher’s Drain Connection

An air gap is the ideal backflow prevention device. It pertains to an unobstructed vertical space between the water outlet and where water collects (flood level) to avoid backflow. A good example is a dishwasher’s drain connection. Municipal plumbing codes specify the minimum air gap distance. On the other hand, backflow prevention devices have valves to prevent backflow.

Atmospheric Vacuum Breaker (AVB)

Automatic Vacuum Breaker

An AVB prevents the backflow of contaminated liquids into the main potable water system. It’s usually installed at least six inches above the peak usage point, such as sprinklers.

Why Do You Need Backflow Testing?

As mentioned, backflow testing is a requirement for many cities and municipalities. Whether or not backflow testing is required in your local area, there are many good reasons to conduct backflow testing with the help of a licensed plumber.

Check out the good reasons why backflow testing is important below.

01. Ensures Safe Drinking Water

Safe Drinking Water

Water backflow can pose health risks due to sewer contaminants spreading to drinking water. Unclean water may come from the damaged pipes of swimming pools, septic tanks, and other water storage areas. Harmful microorganisms and toxins present in backflows may cause serious health problems.

Patients may suffer from diarrhea, stomach ache, vomiting, and fever. These signs are indicative of infection caused by drinking contaminated water. When you observe these signs, it’s important to see a doctor immediately for prompt treatment.

Household heads and building managers must ensure the installation of backflow preventer valves and yearly backflow testing to avoid health issues. 

A licensed plumber in your area can install backflow preventers in strategic plumbing system locations wherein contaminated water may travel potable water supply pipes. In addition, a local plumber can also conduct backflow testing annually. Backflow prevention devices have date markings, giving homeowners and professionals an idea of the next backflow testing schedule.

02. Prevents Structural Damage

Prevent Structural Damage

As water travels backward, it hits the surrounding structures which put them at risk of sustaining added pressure that can cause corrosion and other forms of damage. Therefore, backflow testing is vital to keep the walls intact and moisture-free.

Backflow testing is also a great way to keep your plumbing system intact and in good working order. Backflows could damage your plumbing system, which can worsen if you troubleshot a backflow yourself.

03. Protects Community Health

Protect Community Health

When all backflow prevention devices in the community undergo annual inspection and testing, then there’s a lower chance of having contaminated water.

Without regular backflow testing, the members from the surrounding area may suffer from water-borne diseases. Examples include amoebiasis and bacterial gastroenteritis due to drinking polluted water.

For this reason, the government enforces strict backflow testing compliance to cities and municipalities with corresponding imposed penalties for violators. The authorities require districts to install backflow preventers and have a backflow prevention plan.

04. Safeguards The Environment

Safeguards the Environment

When plumbing pipes burst, backflow occurs, and water storage areas, like public pools and sewer systems, are disturbed. Contaminated water backflows can reach lakes, seas, oceans, and other bodies of water, causing water pollution. The ecological balance becomes disrupted when this happens. As a result, humans and animals obtaining water from these sources can also be affected health-wise.

The importance of backflow testing shouldn’t be overlooked. Protect the environment by ensuring yearly backflow testing. 

05. Prolongs One’s Life Expectancy

Prolong Life

Drinking clean water helps prolong life, whereas drinking contaminated water can lead to serious health problems and even death. Imagine the health effects of germs and chemicals in sewer systems and other storage water areas when they reach your drinking water supply. 

Protect your life and your loved ones. Avoid losing a family member by complying with annual backflow testing. If you notice any warning signs of backflow, call a local plumber immediately. Moreover, if you observe unexplained health problems alongside a backflow problem, schedule a prompt medical check-up for proper treatment.

06. For One’s Peace Of mind

Regular backflow testing can provide you peace of mind that your drinking water is clean or free from unwanted substances, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and heavy metals.

Schedule for Next Backflow Testing

Check the next backflow testing date in your backflow prevention devices and note them on your smartphone or paper calendar. Set the alarm to avoid missing the important date. You can schedule a backflow testing earlier to ensure you won’t forget it.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Backflow?

Call a Local Plumber for Backflow

Property owners should never troubleshoot a backflow issue on their own because this is a serious plumbing problem. Contact a licensed local plumber immediately if you suspect backflow to conduct backflow testing and treatment. Close water valves to stop backflow.

Be on the lookout for the following:

  • Discolored water;
  • Bad water taste;
  • A strong sulfur water smell;
  • Sluggish or interrupted water flow;
  • Sluggish draining sinks; and 
  • Sediments or rust particles in the water.


Backflow testing is crucial to ensuring the health and safety of homeowners and everyone in the community. It helps protect the environment too. Homeowners and building owners should ask for the help of an experienced plumber to ensure the proper procedure for backflow testing and maintenance.

Don’t forget to read the following article:

10 Things People Unknowingly Do That Ruin Plumbing

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