Backflow & Cross Connection

What is Backflow & Cross Connection?

Water served to your home or business is generally protected under a “closed system” until it reaches your meter.  From there it passes into your private service line where it may later come in contact with a variety of fixtures and devices, including toilets, showers, refrigerators, and much more.  Oregon Plumbing Code requires these connections be made in a manner that prevents “cross-contamination” with the public water system.

Normally, the public system is also maintained under pressure, pushing water into your private service connection.  On rare occasions, however, either due to a loss in pressure within the public system or mechanisms occurring within your home or business, the flow of water can be reversed.  This is a condition known as “backflow.”  When events like these occur, potentially contaminated water may be pulled back into the drinking water system from your home or business through an uncontrolled cross connection.


Safeguarding the Water Supply

Why does it matter?

Backflow is a public health concern.  While uncommon, backflow incidents may result in unwanted contamination entering the public water system.  We make every effort to maintain system pressure to avoid back flow incidents. However unplanned events like main breaks and firefighting activities may cause backflow to occur.

How is drinking water protected from this risk?

By law, known cross connection hazards must be separated from the public water supply, usually with a device called a backflow prevention assembly.  The most common device of this kind is a double-check valve assembly installed as part of an in-ground irrigation system. Other examples include vacuum breakers commonly placed on outdoor hose bibs.

Cross connections posing a higher hazard must have more advanced protection.  Properties with a well and a connection to the public water supply, for instance, will likely require a reduced pressure backflow assembly. The type of backflow assembly required depends on the risk posed by the potential cross connection.

Oregon Administrative Rule 333-061-0070 delegated responsibility for enforcement of cross connection control to local water providers and is administered per Sunrise Water Authority Ordinance 2011-01. Below are links to the State’s backflow program and Sunrise’s Ordinance:

State of Oregon Cross Connection & Backflow Prevention Program

Sunrise Water Authority’s Cross Connection Control Ordinance


What can I do to protect my drinking water?

Confirm You Have an Approved Backflow Prevention Assembly

For properties with in-ground irrigation systems, confirm that you have an approved backflow prevention assembly installed.  It is typically found in a small box with a green lid (often marked sprinkler system) located near the water meter box. The device will normally be a double check valve assembly similar to the one shown in the video below.

Get the Device Tested by a Certified Backflow Tester

Backflow assemblies are mechanical devices that can wear out or fail.  Testing assures that the device is in working order. A list of certified testers is maintained by the Oregon Health Authority.

Be sure to ask about pricing before you agree to testing. The quoted cost can range dramatically between testing providers.   Note, if the device fails, any repairs will involve additional costs.

NOTE:  If you have a testable backflow device you are required by law to have it tested every year. Failure to test your device may result in suspension of water service.

Make Sure the Backflow Test Results Are Reported to Sunrise

The backflow tester is required to submit a copy of your test result(s) to you and Sunrise.  However, ultimately, you are responsible for assuring that information is sent to us.  Be sure to save your copy of the test results in case verification is requested.