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What is the Difference Between a Backwater Valve and Backflow Prevention?

First let’s detail exactly what backwater is. Backwater is the backflow of raw sewage from blockage in a sewer line that could result in flood damage to a residential, commercial or public property. Backwater flows can be prevented by properly installing and maintaining a backwater valve.

  • A backwater valve is a simple and relatively inexpensive device that is installed in your private sewer service line.
  • Backwater valves provide a physical barrier to prevent raw sewage from flowing back into your home or business and flooding the premises.
  • Regular maintenance checks must be performed to ensure the proper operation of your backwater valve.

Property owners are responsible for the permit, installation and annual maintenance of a backwater valve. Backwater valves and permits are required by the City of Prescott, per City Code Section 3-6-2 IPC Section 715.1. It is important to review your homeowner’s insurance policy to make certain you are insured against flood damage from sewage backflow. Backflow of raw sewage into a home or business can be a very costly cleanup and cause severe damage.

The major number one household practice that causes backflow of raw sewage into a home is when Fat’s, Oil’s and Grease are poured down the kitchen or toilet. These items can stick to sewer pipes and may cause harmful sewer line clogs. Sewer line blockage can cause raw sewage to back up and overflow from a toilet, shower drain, washing machine, private cleanout or other household plumbing fixtures. These sewer flows can also flow into streets, creeks, lakes and other public use areas that may threaten public health and the environment. To prevent grease from building up and clogging sewer lines, never pour cooking fat or grease down the sink or other household drain! Instead, allow these substances to cool, scrape or pour them into a sealed bag or container and dispose of in the trash.

Backflow Prevention is a program to prevent contamination of our area’s water supply. There are backflow preventions devices such as a hose bib vacuum breaker. This is a frost proof device that protects backflow at hose connections. This device is required on all new construction, relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Another devise is the Reduced Pressure Zone Assembly (RPZ) and this device is approved protection for all hazards and is required for all new commercial site construction and irrigation systems.

An irrigation permit is required to install an RPZ. The State Law requires annual testing and certification of all these assemblies. There are many possible sources of cross contamination such as irrigation systems, swimming pools, laundry sinks, water softeners, outdoor hose connections.

The best management practices and tips to follow are:

#1 Make sure you have a backwater prevention valve installed on your sewer line to protect your home. Perform regular maintenance and system checks on the backwater valve. If you require a plumber, always inform them you have a backwater valve installed to avoid damage of the device.

#2 Never never ever never pour fats, oil’s or grease down your drains.

#3 Hire a licensed contractor to install a backflow prevention assembly for your irrigation system. This will prevent water supply contamination. Always winterize and protect the irrigation system and backflow device. Install a frost proof vacuum breaker on all hose bib connections. Making sure you have these items installed on your home or place of business is a solution to prevention of serious and costly problems.

Phone: (928) 778-0040


810 E. Sheldon Street, Prescott, AZ 86301

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