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How To Spend Less Time Administering Backflow and More Time Preventing It

Backflow prevention can generate a lot of unnecessary administrative work. Here's how to make time for what's really important.

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Backflow Inspector

Backflow can bring contaminants in homes and businesses back into the main drinking water line, threatening public safety, undermining trust in the water supply, and creating legal and financial headaches for water suppliers.

We all have a role to play in preventing backflow, but in most cases responsibility ultimately falls with local water providers and inspectors. The problem is that many backflow prevention programs are under-resourced and compete with other priorities like distribution, water quality and even FOG, overburdening operators and forcing them to juggle many hats. 

The tools utilities use to manage their cross-connection control records don’t help either. 

Outdated software, spreadsheets and even paper forms and files create headaches for workers in the field, while administrators at the utility spend hours hunting down test reports, correspondence with customers, and important information about backflow devices.

All of that extra recordkeeping and data entry work is adding up, preventing operators from focusing on tasks that actually add value like inspections, surveys and infrastructure management.

Here are three ways to cut down on the amount of time operators spend administering backflow prevention and more time on actually preventing it.

1. Streamline Reporting and Data Entry

Cross-connection control generates a lot of data, and making sure that data is captured and organized the right way can be a challenge.

Take something as basic as the forms inspectors fill out when they carry out routine backflow assembly tests. Properly filling one out can take a significant amount of time because:

  • Test forms can vary by jurisdiction
  • Different submission requirements might require paper mail, fax or email submittal
  • Forms will often try to fit many different test types–RPZ, DC, DCDA, RPDA, and PVB—onto a single page

Doing everything you can to minimize data entry time and remove as many sources of friction from this process as possible keeps inspectors happy and productive while cutting down on delays and unnecessary work.

One essential piece in your toolkit: a web-based, configurable reporting tool like Klir that simplifies inspection management and provides a user-friendly interface for risk assessment, survey, test and incident report data entry.

Replacing a spreadsheet or paper-based process with a web-based one can save inspectors hours of data entry time per week and free them up for more important tasks.

2. Increase Data Accessibility 

Getting data into your system is important. But getting that data back out and into the hands of the people who need it most is crucial, especially if your water system experiences a backflow event.

In addition to potentially endangering public safety, causing denial of service to customers and loss of revenue for the utility, backflow incidents can put a huge administrative burden on water providers.

One study by the American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA) found that operators spent an average of 494 hours investigating each backflow event, incurring an average personnel cost of $14,800 per incident. Another study from USC put that figure at $16,143 and found that one utility had spent more than $1.6 million responding to a single event.

Keeping risk assessment, survey report and inspection data in one easy to use system can make a world of difference during a backflow investigation, helping: 

  1. Cut down on time lost hunting down information
  2. Improve response times and ultimately cut down on risks to public safety 
  3. Simplify backflow incident reporting

It bears remembering that most large water providers are legally obligated to keep these records. Not keeping them in a dedicated data management or recordkeeping system could create issues around liability and even result in fines, especially if a backflow incident ever occurs.

3. Bring Everything Together Into One Dashboard 

We’ve talked about the personnel hours and costs involved in a backflow investigation. But what about the day-to-day work of scheduling inspection routes, corresponding with customers and reporting to regulators?

Those priorities can be difficult to stay on top of when you’re tied up with record keeping and paperwork. But they’re also precisely what we create more time for when we do a better job of managing backflow data.

Powerful dashboards like Klir can do exactly that, giving administrators easy access to their entire backflow prevention program at a glance and bringing it all together into one detailed report, making it easier to:

  • Plan and manage inspections
  • Track important program metrics like new installations and enforcement actions
  • Stay on top of compliance, violations and correspondence with customers

Take Control of Your Cross-Connection Program With Klir

Klir’s backflow module helps utilities schedule, organize, and run effective cross-connection control programs. Most importantly, it gives organizations the means to keep comprehensive digital records on all their cross-connection activities. To learn more, book a demo today.

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