Keeping Your Family’s Water Safe

It’s a hot summer day in the wake of a tropical storm. You go to your kitchen to quench your thirst. You take a big drink of cold water from the kitchen faucet, but instead you gulp down a big glass of herbicides mixed with fertilizer.

Every time you turn on the water in your kitchen or bathroom, you expect to get drinking water that is safe and pure.   We all take potable water for granted. This is a tribute to modern water treatment facilities and their workers, and represents decades of work developing processes, equipment, and standards for water distribution systems. Nevertheless, you should play a small role to ensure water safety.

To guarantee your home and neighborhood water supply remains pure install anti-siphon valves on every hose bibb around your house. Bibb (or bib) is short for bibcock, which is a faucet whose nozzle is bent downward.

We all use hoses to wash cars, water plants and gardens, and to pressurize sprinkler systems, some fitted with automatic fertilizer injectors. We assume water systems are always pressurized and function in the manner to which we are accustomed. However, there are infrequent and anomalous occurrences in which the water pressure in your home can fall quickly and dramatically, and cause water to be suctioned backwards into your house. This can happen if a fire hydrant near your home is turned on suddenly, or a water main serving your home ruptures underground, or your water treatment plant loses power.

If and when one of these rare situations occurs, any liquid or gas present near an open faucet, may be drawn back into your water supply pipes. Lawn sprinkler systems fed by house water will draw in ground water and pieces and parts of everything in the lawn, like fertilizer, herbicides, and pet waste. A hose laying on the ground, or draped into your pool, will draw back into your water pipes dirty flood water or chemically rich pool water. By ensuring there is an anti-siphon device on every hose bibb around your home, you will prevent such unwelcome occurrences.

An individual anti-siphon valve costs between four and ten dollars and is available at your local hardware or home supply store. In essence, it is a one-way flow valve. It is about one and a half inches in diameter and one inch thick. It screws directly onto your existing hose bibb and usually has a set screw to hold it in place after being installed.   Once installed, a regular hose will connect to it just like a standard hose bibb. This simple mechanical device protects not only your family and your home’s water supply, but it also protects your neighbors’ water as well.

Spend a few dollars this week to install an anti-siphon valve on each hose bibb around your home. Then, rest easy, knowing you have protected all your loved ones and neighbors by ensuring the safety of your drinking water.

Greg Bertaux PE, CIEC.
Copyright 2015, PRIME Engineering & Environmental Building Services

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