Preventing Backflow With Better Customer Relationships: A Checklist

Running a successful backflow program means getting your customers on board. Here are some strategies we've seen utilities use to build better relationships.


Backflow Education

“I heard only people with lawn irrigation have problems with backflow.”

“How do I know this backflow assembly is really necessary?”

“Okay, so what’s the least expensive assembly I can buy?”

Sound familiar?

Water suppliers and backflow inspectors hear these questions from customers all the time.

While it makes sense that customers might have some questions about backflow, an uninformed or uncooperative customer can also create problems.

  • They could balk at the price of a new device, delaying installation and creating administrative and compliance headaches.
  • They might forget about inspections, leaving inspectors waiting at the door.
  • They can ignore easy-to-fix hazards existing in their own plumbing system, increasing backflow risk in general.

The fact is that effective cross-connection control is just as much about technical challenges as it is about nurturing good relationships with customers and ensuring they understand their responsibilities and obligations.

To do that, water suppliers have to be creative. Here are three successful approaches we’ve seen, and how they can help your backflow prevention program succeed. 

1. Arm Yourself With Good Educational Materials

In addition to being a leader in backflow training and research, the USC Foundation for Cross-Connection Control and Hydraulic Research is an excellent starting point for water suppliers looking to raise awareness around backflow.

The foundation’s customizable brochures, video guides and slideshows all do a great job of explaining concepts like backflow, back siphonage and backpressure to a non-specialist audience, providing you with everything you need to start an awareness campaign in your community.

The American Backflow Prevention Association’s educational materials are another excellent resource, and its Buster Backflow series even provides younger readers with an entry point into the subject.

If you’re keen on producing your own materials, the backflow incident case histories published by the AWWA and the EPA can also be invaluable. These vivid, at times jarring incident reports aren’t shy with the details and include reported cases involving:

  • Gallons of seawater entering the soda fountains at a fast food restaurant
  • Propane entering a town’s water system
  • Blood coming out of a Michigan hospital’s drinking fountains 

Chapter 2 of the EPA’s official Cross-Connection Control Manual (PDF) includes more than a dozen of these stories, each of which do a great job of communicating the dangers of backflow.

Prevent Backflow With Better Data Management

Interested in learning more about how better data management can help you run a more effective cross-connection control program? Download the guide and book a demo of the Klir backflow module today.

2. Set Testers and Inspectors up for Success

While they might not have the time to educate every single last customer, testers and inspectors can certainly help—provided you give them the right tools.

In addition to arming them with good information and literature they can leave with the customer, ensuring inspectors have access to accurate and up-to-date information about your cross-connection control program is the best way to set them up for success.

That includes:

  • Ensuring testers are clear on each customer’s responsibilities.
  • Ensuring individual customer information is recorded properly and up to date to prevent confusion or delays during the inspection.
  • Informing inspectors of any risks or hazards that are specific to that customer.

One way to do this is to keep all backflow and cross-connection control-related data together in one system that inspectors can access themselves, eliminating the need for time-consuming paperwork chasing.

3. Cut Down On Administrative Work

If having a good backflow brochure and taking care of your inspectors is important, educating and engaging with community members directly is essential.

But building relationships with local businesses, institutions and other important water users in your community can be difficult when you’re stuck in the office taking care of administrative work.

Cross-connection data management software like Klir can help free up some of that time by:

Automating Away Repetitive Work

Klir automates a lot of the busywork involved in maintaining asset inventories, creating inspection schedules and capturing cross-connection data in general. If you’re currently using spreadsheets or software that wasn’t built specifically for backflow, switching to Klir could save you hours of work per week. 

Simplifying Inspections

Backflow professionals often tell us how difficult it can be to get backflow data in and out of a water supplier’s system. Customer files can be difficult to access, and inspection reports can be time-consuming to fill out.

A dedicated backflow data management solution like Klir solves these problems by bringing all backflow data into one accessible, easy to use system, giving inspectors access to all of the information and forms they need in a web-based app.

Making Your System Self-Serve

No one likes getting sternly-worded inspection reminders or water shutoff warnings. Making cross-connection control a self-serve process is one way around this, which is why we’re so excited about Klir’s community module, which will soon allow users to do exactly that.

Take Control of Your Cross-Connection Data With Klir

Klir’s backflow module helps utilities schedule, organize, and run effective cross-connection control programs, making it easier than ever to manage backflow data with powerful dashboards, asset mapping and project management automation. Learn more and book a demo today.

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