Double check assembly handle replacement.

All irrigation systems in Texas need a backflow device installed at the beginning of the system, usually near the water source, like a water meter. A majority of the systems have a double check assembly (DCA). Some have a reduced pressure principle device (RPZ) or a pressure vacuum breaker (PVB, SVB), but this depends on the municipality, geographical location in the state, and whether the system is considered a high hazard or not.

If you have a double check assembly installed, it is likely in a green rectangle box and in the ground. It tends to get buried over time which makes the handles unusable unless the box is cleaned out around the device. It is also likely the handles will be rusted, corroded, or completely gone.

These handles are critical in isolating the irrigation water from the house water. They are also critical in turning off the mainline due to an irrigation mainline leak that is gushing non-stop or when servicing a control valve.

I would suggest checking your handle status at least once a year. Clean around them as needed. If it turns out the handles can’t beused due to their condition, they should be replaced. You could, of course, replace the whole device, but that can be expensive. And if the device isn’t up to current state code, it will need to be brought up to code with all the required permits, inspections, and backflow testing.

I offer a handle replacement service that is not expensive compared to a full device replacement. I carry the tools and supplies needed to replace both handles on the spot. It usually takes less than two hours and includes box clean up around the device, handle removals, grinding and rethreading brass stems, handle installations, and handle testing to make sure the valves isolate the main line properly.

Updated 12/23/2022

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Irrigation Advisory Council voted: Irrigation Systems are Health Hazard

I’ve just received my new 2017 TXIA Newsletter, Volume 42, Number 1. Some interesting news has been revealed on page 12. The IAC (Minutes, VII. a)), after much discussion, “motioned and passed through majority vote to make the recommendation to the Commission to classify landscape irrigation systems as health hazard (Ch344.1 (14).” It’s been talked about for years. I’m actually surprised it’s taken this long. The TCEQ already classifies irrigation as non-potable (Ch344.62 (n). This vote, if implemented by TCEQ, would mean that all new irrigation systems would get a reduced pressure principle (RPZ) device installed somewhere on the property. And it would have to be tested every year per Chapter 344.50 (c). Yes, there are backflow options in a health hazard scenario: an air gap, RPZ, pressure vacuum breaker, or atmospheric vacuum breaker. My bet is on the RPZ.

Right now, most irrigation systems have double check assemblies installed as the backflow device. Most of them were actually tested on the installation and they have never been tested again. My wild guess would be that half of them may not re-pass a backflow test if they are ten years or older, if they are even testable. Good luck finding them, too. A lot of them are covered with soil and grass. Or if you did find the box, the device would be covered with dirt, have no handles to use for testing, and clogged test cocks.

What’s really going to be interesting to watch is the new home builder installers response. They already get fussy when a city wants to add a rule that may cost them a few bucks on a job. This change, if fully implemented, will cost everyone a lot more money.  The rise in cost, in my opinion, is worth it. It’s just going to be a hard sell at first. Although, if we as irrigators look at all that is required for any kind of backflow device, it’s just the potential (Ch344.75) for a health hazard. As long as the facts and rules behind the move are fully visualized, it will become the standard practice. As it should have been all along.

If anyone wants more research on backflow they can also read through 290.44(h) Backflow, siphonage of the Rules and Regulations of the Public Water Systems.