February 28, 2018


What is Being Proposed?

Currently moving through the Idaho State Legislature are two bills that could put public health at risk by eliminating an established annual testing process that results in inspection and verification of backflow prevention assemblies needed to protect against system contamination.

HCR035 and HCR037 would reject the existing rules under Idaho Administrative Code 58.01.08 and Idaho Administrative Code 07.02.06, which require annual inspections and testing of all installed backflow prevention assembles. These rules were established on multiple code and industry leader recommendations including the Uniform Plumbing Code, American Water Works Association, and the University of Southern California Foundation for Cross Connection Control and Hydraulic Research.

Why is it Important?

———- Public Health ———-

Nearly 2,000 public drinking water systems in Idaho depend on the proper installation and function of backflow prevention assemblies as a barrier to contamination. Without these protection measures in place, public water systems are vulnerable to contamination that may impact public health. One contamination incident may result in considerable liability to Idaho’s communities that may be avoided by simply retaining inexpensive, annual testing that is already in place.

Backflow is the unwanted flow of used or non-potable water, or any other substances from domestic, industrial, or piping systems back into a potable drinking water system. Contamination from one failed backflow device can impact an entire public drinking water system, potentially resulting in a public health crisis for a community, its citizens, and its water supplier.

Backflow prevention assemblies help provide reasonable protection against contaminating a citizen’s or community’s water supply. These backflow assemblies are installed in various settings for different threat levels. They are installed within buildings, on irrigation systems, typically fed by surface water sources, and at connection points between private premise lines and the public water system. Sediment, debris, freeze/thaw events, improper winterization blow-out/installation practices, and chemicals from these sources can and do interfere with the proper function of a backflow assembly, contributing to potential contamination occurrences if backflow devices are not maintained regularly and verified in proper working condition.


———- Financial Impact ———-

In addition to public health concerns, HCR035 and HCR037  could negatively impact Idaho communities financially. Currently, many of Idaho’s public water systems have ordinances in place to help enforce the requirement for annual backflow assembly testing inspections. If the ordinances currently in place incorporate by reference the rules for backflow assembly testing in IDAPA 58.01.08/07.02.06, and these rules are eliminated, the existing ordinances will require updating, resulting in additional cost to these communities.

The fiscal note that was submitted with HCR035 and HCR037 suggests that rejection of the IDAPA rules would save homeowners $25-$35 annually for each residential test. What this note does not mention is that depending on the water source and the existing infrastructure in place, costs for the water system may go up, which in the end results in higher utility rates for its customers.

For example, public water systems serving 1,000 or fewer people that have an effective cross connection control program in place may qualify for reduced monitoring for total coliform. The frequency of testing is outlined in EPA’s rules and adopted by DEQ. If these rules are removed, DEQ would not be able to approve an effective cross connection control program allowing for reduced monitoring requirements.

There are more than 400 public drinking water systems in Idaho that may be required to monitor total coliform through more frequent sampling or may be required to install continuous disinfection for their drinking water system if DEQ’s ability to approve cross connection control programs is removed. The cost to each of these small systems, depending on the size and complexity of the system, would vary between an additional $300 to $10,000. Some costs would be for one-time installation and others would include annual fees for increased water sample costs or the cost of chemicals for continuous disinfection of the water supply.




What Can I Do?

We urge all Idahoans to contact their Idaho Representatives to let them know you oppose HCR035 and HCR03:

HCR035 – House Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee contact information HERE (click the link for Members) .
HCR037 – House Business Committee contact information HERE (click the link for Members).
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