Residential and Non-Residential Customers
- Annual Testing Requirements
- Opt-In Testing Program
- Outdoor Hoses
- Backflow Prevention Diagrams
- Winterizing Your Home
Annual Testing Requirements
After an approved backflow prevention (BFP) assembly has been installed and tested, it must be re-tested annually by individuals who have been certified by an approved testing school. The CCC office establishes the annual testing schedule and mails notification to the homeowner or business. The city also maintains a list of qualified testers (PDF) who are approved to conduct testing of assemblies on the City of Durham's water distribution system.
The owner of the backflow prevention assembly has 15 days to repair or replace the failed assembly if the BFP fails the requirements of the annual test. The 15 day requirement to repair a failed unit is subject to change only upon contact with the City’s Cross Connection Control office to determine replacement/repair due date. Contact the Cross Connection Control office at 919-560-4194 prior to any repair or replacement. In addition, a backflow permit must be submitted with all replacement or new backflow prevention assemblies. Also, a fire permit and/or a plumbing permit may be required (see FAQs).
Opt-In Backflow Preventer Testing Program
The City of Durham Code of Ordinances requires annual testing of backflow preventers (BFPs) to ensure they are in good working order to protect the quality of water for you and the rest of the city’s water users. The only method to determine satisfactory operation of backflow prevention assemblies is to have them tested by a certified tester with approved test equipment. The City of Durham Code of Ordinances requires the annual testing of all backflow prevention assemblies by a certified tester, with the results submitted to the City.
New Residential Service
Water Management is excited to offer a new service to residential customers who have BFPs. It is the City’s hope that this new service will streamline the testing process for you. Participation in this program is optional. If you prefer to directly retain your own testing contractor you may do so as long as you remain compliant with the City’s testing requirements. If you would like to register for this program, complete an opt-in request form and submit it to the Department of Water Management Cross Connection Control Program (CCC) at email@example.com.
- Online Opt in Testing Program Form (submitted online)
- Opt In/Opt Out Testing Program Fillable Form (PDF) (print, complete, and submit by email)
Under this program, the annual backflow test associated with your automatic lawn irrigation system will be performed by an approved tester under contract with the City of Durham. Testing will typically begin in mid-April and continue through the end of September. The city has negotiated a cost of $85 for the testing of each assebly. Once you opt-in the charge will be applied to the City of Durham water account associated with the address where the backflow test will be conducted. The cost includes the annual inspection of your assembly and any minor repairs or replacement parts that are required. If you do not have a water account in your name associated with the address where the backflow test will be conducted, you may not enroll in the program. Please note, the City is not responsible for backflow preventers that freeze and are not winterized properly.
The testing process requires a 15-minute interruption of water service and less than one gallon of water is used to perform the test. Once the test has been completed, the City’s contractor will leave a door hanger with the test results. You will not have to submit any documentation regarding the BFP test. The testing contractor will submit the results directly to CCC Program staff.
If you choose to participate in the program and you have an existing account, your account will be billed the first available billing cycle after the test has been performed and submitted to the City.
If you have already had your backflow preventer tested for this year and would like to opt-in for the backflow preventer testing program next year, please fill out the opt-in request form and you will be added to next year’s list of opt-in customers. If you wish to opt-in for the current calendar year, please submit your opt-in request form by August 1.
Mandatory Program Enrollment
The City of Durham Code or Ordinances requires annual testing of backflow prevention assemblies. The Cross Connection Control office establishes the annual testing schedule and mails notifications to homeowners approximately 60 days prior to their due date.
Owners who fail to have their backflow prevention assemblies tested and submitted by the deadline are subject to penalty for violating City code.
In order to protect the quality of water for you and the rest of the City's water users, the City has implemented a mandatory residential enrollment program. Customers who have failed to have devices tested and are delinquent by two months or more will automatically be enrolled in the program.
Upon enrollment in the mandatory testing program, customers' accounts will be billed the contractor's annual fee plus a $100 administrative fee for each assembly that requires testing. A certified tester will be dispatched to conduct the test. The fee will be applied to the water accounts once the tester is dispatched, regardless of whether or not the backflow assembly is able to be tested.
Here are some additional important points about the program:
- If the testing process demonstrates that the backflow assembly is damaged beyond repair, the contractor will report that information to you. You, as the owner, are responsible for the replacement of the assembly. As an example, backflow assemblies may freeze and break if they are not winterized properly. Typically, when this occurs, a new backflow assembly has to be installed and requires a backflow permit (separate).
- The contractor performing the backflow testing is responsible for any damage to your property.
- A copy of the test results will be left for the customer and the tester will provide all proper documentation to the City of Durham for the annual backflow testing requirement.
It is always important to remember that improperly disconnecting a hose to a hose bibb can potentially create a hazardous scenario. Remember to connect an anti-siphon coupler to your hose bibb(s) before connecting your hose.
Many water customers use garden hoses connected to bibb’s for outdoor watering needs. But, did you know that plumbing code requires hose bibb’s to have a vacuum breaker, which help protect water quality in your plumbing and in the drinking water supply?
Hose Bibb Vacuum Beakers (HBVB) help ensure potentially contaminated water in a hose does not flow backwards, into your home and the public water supply. This is known as backsiphonage. It occurs when water pressure in the plumbing system drops, and contaminated water is sucked from the hose, back into plumbing pipes, inside your home. Any contaminates in the water such as bacteria, fertilizer, pesticides, or dirt will be sucked back into your home. A HBVB prevents backsiphonage by opening to the atmosphere and allowing air, not contaminated water into the plumbing system. However, HBVB do have limitations. To help protect yours and everyone’s water, follow these simple steps:
- Check your outside hose bibb’s to ensure HBVB are installed. If the devices aren’t there, install one.
- Over time HBVB’s wear out and should be replaced. The Department of Water Management Cross Connection Control (CCC) group recommends replacing HBVB annually.
- Never leave your hose bibb running for extended periods. A HBVB pressurized for more than 12 hours can fail.
- Never install valves downstream of a HBVB. Pressure in the hose from a closed spray nozzle or other valve will prevent the HBVB from functioning properly.
- Hose bibbs are intended for uses such as temporary above-ground sprayers. You should never connect a permanent irrigation system to a bibb. Irrigation system connections require permits and have additional requirements to ensure protection of the public water system.
Winterizing Your Home
The Department of Water Management offers its customers the following tips to prepare for cold weather.
- During hard freezes keep kitchen and bath pipes exposed to warm air by leaving cabinet doors open during periods of extreme cold.
- Don’t turn the thermostat too low when leaving for work or extended absences. Keep the temperature set at normal nighttime settings.
- Locate your master shutoff valve, label it and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is. (Master shutoff valves may be near the water heater or the washing machine. More than likely it is located where the water line comes into the house from the street. If a pipe bursts anywhere in the house, use this valve to turn off the water supply to minimize damage.)
- If you are going to be gone for any length of time, shut off the water supply at the main valve.
- Do not leave the water running; this wastes water and will not always prevent pipes from freezing.
- Disconnect and drain all outdoor hoses. Detaching the hose allows water to drain from the pipe.
- Protect outside faucets with insulated covers available at hardware and building supply stores.
- Caulk around pipes where they enter the house.
- Close foundation vents and seal cracks in basement, crawl spaces or along outside walls.
- Wrap pipes in unheated areas with weatherproof insulation. Don’t leave any gaps.
- Winterize irrigation systems, including your backflow prevention device.
Backflow Preventer Winterization
Follow these steps to winterize your backflow preventer.
- Turn off water to the backflow preventer. Most have an isolation shutoff valve located below ground before the backflow preventer.
- Open test cocks on the backflow preventer to drain all the water from it.
- Once water is drained, close both shutoff valves with a one-quarter counterclockwise turn. This will prevent the valves from being completely closed or opened.
- If there are unions at ground level you can remove the backflow preventer; if there are no unions, you will need to insulate the backflow preventer so it can’t freeze.
- If you choose not to remove your backflow preventer, please view the video below to protect your backflow preventer from damage.
For information on conservation and efficiency, contact the Department of Water Management at 919-560-4381.