The Theft of Irrigation Backflow Preventers


Irrigation backflow is when water that typically flows in one direction is reversed and enters the clean water supply.  When backflow prevention devices are installed it ensures the cleanliness of water you use on a daily basis.
What are they?
Irrigation backflow prevention devices are brass valves.  These are installed on sprinkler systems that are connected to potable (drinking) water supplies.  Sometimes, if there is a duel sprinkler system for irrigation water and potable water then a reduced pressure device is instead installed.  By using this method, this ensures safety.
Why are they important?
These devices prevent potable water from being contaminated and polluted by hazards such as pesticides, feces, fertilizers, and more.  By having a backflow protection valve properly installed, this helps to guarantee that any contaminated water by such toxic materials will not be siphoned back into your drinking water.  Irrigation water typically flows away from your faucet, thus allowing potable water to flow freely into your drinking glass, but when backflow occurs it reverses the direction of the irrigation water and then contaminates your drinking water.
Why do thieves want to steal them?
When irrigation backflow preventers are stolen it is primarily because the thieves are looking to sell the devices as scrap metal since they are typically made of brass.  This scrapped brass can be sold for anywhere from $2 to $50 per piece!  This is fairly low in value when you consider the actual replacement or repair of these will cost the Association upwards of $2,000 per system.
What can be done to prevent it from being stolen…possibly again?
Since irrigation backflow preventers are required by most states and standards set to protect tap water were established by the EPA and called the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), these combined help keep the public water systems free from contamination.  In order to protect irrigation backflow preventers from possible theft, it is recommended to purchase sturdy and secure backflow enclosures.  Enclosures safeguard these valves by keeping them secured, protected, and under lock and key.
In the end, remember to always check the security of your irrigation backflow preventers and to install an enclosed safeguard if you feel it has become a large enough concern.
Written by Tea Fant, The Management Trust – Northwest