It’s no secret that in the drought-plagued State of Texas water conservation is taken very seriously and any waste of such a precious resource is heavily frowned upon by government and citizens alike.
Some municipalities such as Austin not only impose strict watering rules, but also offer incentives for water conservation. Austin has a residential and commercial rebate program for such investments as irrigation system upgrades, pressure regulating valves, watering timers and other devices intended to improve the efficient use of water.
The Texas Administrative Code (TAC) has very specific rules concerning landscape irrigation systems. These rules include such things as:
- minimum standards for design and installation
- rules concerning maintenance, alteration, repair or service of irrigation systems
- the use of reclaimed water
- water conservation requirements
Many municipalities also have their own regulations governing irrigation systems and some of those are more stringent than the state requirements.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is considering making changes to the requirements for reduced pressure backflow preventers for irrigation systems.
Just what is a “reduced pressure backflow preventer”? Well, according to the Encarta World English Dictionary, backflow is “the flowing back of something toward the source”. It is any unwanted reversal of the flow of liquids in a piping system. Backflow can occur if the pressure in the upstream (the supply end) is reduced. Backflow can also occur when a vacuum is created in the upstream; the water is literally sucked back up the system. In cases where the health hazards exist in the downstream, these contaminants can backflow into the clean water supply. Simply put, a reduced pressure backflow preventer is a device that protects potable water by preventing contaminated water from flowing into the clean water supply.
Those irrigation systems that the TCEQ identifies as being “high health hazards” are required to have reduced pressure backflow preventers. Presently, there are only a few circumstances under which an irrigation system can be identified as presenting a high health hazard:
- irrigation systems that are connected to a potable water system and to which a chemical is added by aspiration, injection, or emission
- irrigation systems that are connected to more than one water source
- irrigation systems that are installed on a property served by an on-site sewage facility
The current TCEQ rules also say that any hazardous systems, as currently defined, must meet certain criteria:
- all irrigation piping and valves must meet separation distances from the on-site sewing facilities system
- any connections using a private or public potable water source must be connected to that water source through a reduced pressure backflow prevention assembly
- the irrigation system must be controlled on separate irrigation zones to prevent excess water from compromising the effective operation of the on-site sewage facilities
Details of the current TAC Section 344.51 can be found here: http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=30&pt=1&ch=344&rl=51
There may be changes to the rules regarding using reduced pressure backflow preventers in irrigation systems.
In August 2017, the Texas Irrigation Association’s Irrigator Advisory Council (a nine-member advisory panel consisting of six licensed irrigators and three persons from the public sector, appointed by the TCEQ) submitted a petition to the TCEQ recommending changes to 30 TAC Section 344. Among the recommendations is a proposal “to make all irrigation systems classified as health hazards”. In response, the TCEQ conducted state-wide stakeholder meetings and issued questionnaires to garner additional information on the subject.
That means that ANY irrigation system must include a reduced pressure backflow preventer.
Feedback to the TCEQ on the recommended changes to the regulations has been mixed. Some agree that all irrigation systems are a high health hazard and some do not. Some have expressed objections about the costs for installation and for testing and enforcement and some consider that the cost involved is outweighed by the public benefit. Others are concerned with freezing. Some wondered if any new requirements will be grandfathered. Some find the appearance of the reduced pressure backflow preventers to be objectionable.
TCEQ members are presently reviewing the data and the feedback on the proposed changes and will make recommendations to the TCEQ Commissioners in the fall of this year. The Commissioners will make the decision to accept, reject, or modify the terms of the petition.
The final outcome of the proposed changes is uncertain as yet, but we will keep you posted on developments as they occur.
To keep your irrigation system running at peak efficiency, call South Austin Irrigation at (512) 534-7449.