Backflow devices are found throughout the United States to protect our drinking water from contamination. They’re found in sunny Florida and frozen Alaska, arid Arizona and sandy Texas. The way that backflow devices work do not change in varying climates but there are differences of backflow prevention protection in warm and cold climates, how they are managed and what time of year.
Dewey Sorensen is currently serving as the Supervisor at the Marin Municipal Water District in California near San Francisco. He’s been in the business of maintaining backflow devices since 1990 when he was a backflow prevention assembly tester in California. In 2008, he moved to Bozeman to start the first cross connection program in the state of Montana. He has since moved back to California to head up the program in Marin. At both Water Districts, he worked with Tokay Software and knows both the company and differences of backflow prevention protection in warm and cold climates well.
Sorensen tells us that testing procedures and the way that the both devices and the programs surrounding them work do not change in varying climates. Annual inspections of assemblies and administering programs happen nationwide, no matter the annual rainfall, population or average temperature. Reminders are sent to users; testers are hired to inspect them; reports are turned in to the government body – everywhere. In cold weather though, assemblies and their meters must be protected against freezing. More damage can be done in cold climates than warm: heat can damage rubber components but cold can ruin the entire assembly. Dewey says that protecting against cold is more complicated.
Bob Boule,’ Cross Connection Control Coordinator at the Cross Connection Control Department for the Town of Billerica, Massachusetts agrees saying that “Most issues with commercial backflow are cold weather problems. The effects of ice, snow, winds on the equipment and access doors can be a real problem. Sometimes supplemental heating not working in the room creates complications or just getting to the site in the snow makes our work harder.” Bob also uses Tokay Software to help administer his cross connection program.
In warm climates, almost all devices are outside, exposed to the weather and near to the street for easy access. Maintenance of assemblies is required but is not as dire or as frequent. Dewey tells us though that even in his hometown of Bakersfield, California, where the summers can be 110 degrees, every seven years or so a cold freeze will damage crops and pipes alike. He reports that assemblies in the mild freezes that California experiences can be protected with minimal effort such as an insulated bag. In industrial situations, often electric powered heat tape can be utilized in warm climates. Insulation of backflow assemblies is key everywhere as it can protect from both heat and cold.
In cold climates, the backflow prevention assemblies are installed within the envelope of the building or among other building maintenance components such as boilers, indoor air conditioning units and water tanks. But as Bob mentioned, at times they are not easy to access and protection fails. Maintenance and repairs are larger, more expensive jobs in cold weather.
Additionally, in cold climates, residential irrigation device testing is usually conducted in the spring when lawn care starts. This is also after any potential freezing events. These cold climate water irrigation systems are emptied so they don’t freeze and break during the winter. There’s little to no seasonality to warm climate backflow prevention testing. Irrigation systems are not emptied in the winter.
Tokay Software has customers in 48 of the United States and knows well the effects of both cold and warm climates on backflow prevention devices. Their software works to administer programs in all climates, no matter the weather problems you’re dealing with outside. Do you need help with your cross connection program?
Maureen Wise works in higher edu sustainability and is a freelance writer in Ohio where backflow prevention devices are kept inside buildings.