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.