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Plumbing Emergency: Backflow Solved

What is backflow, you ask? It is, as the name suggests, a flow of water in the reverse direction that it should be going. When this occurs, the potential for water contamination by dirt or foreign-borne substances increases. As we use water in our home for cooking, cleaning and drinking, if a contamination occurs you could be at serious risk of contracting an illness.


Backflow can see you drowning in a plumbing emergency.

How to prevent your plumbing system from backflow

If you have never experienced the plumbing emergency that is backflow (and knock on wood that you don’t) you may not realise that plumbing systems require special backflow prevention devices to, well, prevent backflow of water back into the water supply.

Water companies will often install a one-way valve to stop water from backing up into the supply lines – this keeps water moving in one direction to avoid contamination.  However, if one of the water mains loses pressure (for whatever reason) then the water may end up flowing in the opposite direction, leading to contaminants entering the water supply.

With the constant potential for backflow, solutions must be in place in your home to pre-empt an issue before it becomes a real problem. Arguably the cheapest and easiest method to install is the air gap – open spaces between a fixture and main plumbing systems, usually a spot where water collects, such as the space between the sink rim and the tap. The air gap keeps sink water from flowing back and contaminating the water supply.

Another commonly recommended solution is a backflow preventer, a device installed next to the house’s main shut off valve, which prevents contaminants from flowing back into the city’s water supply.

If you have a backflow preventer or air gap installed, you will need to get it tested on a regular basis – normally annually. This is in order to prevent any plumbing emergencies down the track due to a faulty backflow preventer.

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Geoff James
Written By:

Geoff grew up in Berala near Lidcombe in Sydney and attended Birrong Boys High School where he finished his Year 10 school certificate. Geoff was encouraged by his uncle to consider plumbing as he had done a bit of plumbing work on weekends during his school years. DJ Childs Plumbing in Canterbury offered him a plumbing apprenticeship and he spent most of his time working on plumbing maintenance and new roofs on commercial sites. Geoff on Google+.