Backflow FAQ

General Questions

To ensure that we can continually provide safe and reliable drinking water to your property we periodically survey our customers to understand how water is being used throughout our service area. The questionnaire helps us identify where non-potable water systems (e.g. buried irrigation systems) are connected to the potable (drinking water) plumbing system.

Why am I receiving this questionnaire?

The Division of Water performs periodic surveys of all non-residential properties based on the water account type. If you received this questionnaire in the mail, your property is one of the accounts included in this group. The survey schedule was assigned at random. Customers purchasing new water service connections or modifying an existing connection must also complete the questionnaire.

Is the questionnaire required?

Yes. Columbus City Code 1113.01 requires the DOW to survey customers' properties where actual or potential hazards to the public water supply may exist. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency directs all suppliers of water to survey their customer water system at least once every 5 years. Failure to complete the questionnaire in a timely manner could result in an interruption of water service.

Who should complete the questionnaire?

Information is needed for any building system or process that uses water. This could be a heating or cooling system, fire sprinklers, a lawn irrigation system, etc. Additionally, you must provide information for toxic materials that are used or stored on site. We recommend having someone who is familiar with the basics of your plumbing system, HVAC system, and other water usage complete the questionnaire.

If questionnaires were sent to both the site and an alternate billing address only one response is needed. Please coordinate so conflicting questionnaires are not submitted.

How do I submit the questionnaire?

If you received the questionnaire in the mail return it to:

Mail: Columbus Division of Water
Backflow Compliance Office
910 Dublin Rd
Columbus, OH 43215


If completing the questionnaire for a new tap or modified connection to the public water system, submit it with your proposed Water Service Plan or Service Connection Permit Application.

Completing the Questionnaire

Questions 1 - 3B, Site Use: Certain categories of properties often have equipment or systems that use water in a way that can pose a hazard to the potable (drinking) water system if not properly protected. Understanding the use of a property helps us understand the potential risk. Please tell us about how the property served by this water account is used.

1) Type of building, facility, or site use

Residential means use of a property for a dwelling unit and ordinary associated uses only. A dwelling unit is a single, self-contained unit providing independent living facilities for one or more individuals and which contains eating, living, sanitary and sleeping areas and one cooking facility, all for exclusive use by the occupant. Examples include apartments, condos, single family homes, manufactured homes, etc. Nursing homes and convalescent centers are also considered residential, however, check the box for nursing homes if applicable. If you check "Residential only" go to Question 2 and skip Question 3.

Non-residential means any property that is not used solely for residential use. Mixed use properties consisting of both residential and non-residential uses served by the same water service line(s) are considered non-residential by our office. If you check "Non-residential or mixed use" skip Question 2 and go to Question 3.

2) Question 2 and 2a for residential only

How many dwelling units are served by this account? If you checked "Residential only" in Question 1 you must choose one of the options in Question 2. For Questions 2 and 2a, count the units receiving domestic water service (for consumption, bathing, etc.). If your site also has a separate water service line that is for fire protection, only consider the domestic water service line in your response to Questions 2 and 2a.

2a) Do 5 or more dwelling units share the same City of Columbus water meter?

If 5 or more dwelling units share the same City of Columbus water meter for domestic water service (consumption, bathing, etc.) please check "Yes." If a unit is individually metered by the City of Columbus in most cases it will receive its own water bill from the Division of Water.

Question 3 for non-residential or mixed use

The certificate of occupancy is typically issued by the local building department. If you checked non-residential for Question 1, you must select at least one box from this list. "Other" covers: Assembly A1-A5, Business B, Education E, Institutional I1-I4, Mercantile, Residential R1-R5, Storage S1-S2, or Utility and Miscellaneous U

Questions 4 - 6, Non-Potable Water Systems or Equipment

Not all water supply pipes connected to a private plumbing system supply water for human consumption. Some connections could cause contamination or degradation of the water quality. This may make the water non-potable (unsuitable for drinking). For instance: a) fire sprinkler systems can contain stagnant water, chemicals added to improve fire suppression, or antifreeze; b) boilers/radiant heating systems can contain stagnant water or have chemicals added to condition the water;c) lawn irrigation systems can contain stagnant water that could be contaminated by herbicides, pesticides, or animal waste. Plumbing systems that are not intended for human consumption are typically isolated from the drinking water system by a mechanical device called a backflow preventer or backflow prevention assembly. Questions 4 - 6 help us understand where potential sources of non-potable water may be connected to the drinking water system.

4) Does your property have another water supply system (e.g. a well for lawn irrigation, rainwater storage, or a pond that supplements your fire suppression system) or any recycled water systems?

A second source of water that has pumps or pipes to allow for use of the water is referred to as an auxiliary water system. Examples include wells with a pump, a pond with a hose connection for the fire department, or a rooftop rainwater harvesting system that uses water for flushing toilets.
If you have an auxiliary water system, either permanent or intermittent, please check "Yes" and explain. You do not need to include in your response rain barrels at the end of downspouts at a residential property that are used solely for outdoor watering.

5) Does your property have a fire suppression system that uses city water and/or a private fire hydrant(s)?

Fire suppression systems are used to extinguish or prevent the spread of fire in a building. Your property may have a water line that is used only for fire protection, or your property may have a combined water line that services your domestic water and fire suppression system. If you have your fire suppression system tested regularly, your tester may be able to help you answer the questions below.

5a) Does the system use water only?
If foam or other chemicals (e.g. anti-freeze) are used in the system answer "No."

There are multiple types of fire suppression systems. One type uses water only. This means no chemicals or other solvents are added to the system.
Other types of fire suppression systems may add chemicals to either aid in firefighting or to prevent the pipes from freezing in cold temperatures.

5b) Is there a fire department hose connection outside the building?

A fire department connection located outside of a building allows the fire department to connect hose lines from a pumper truck to the building to aid in firefighting. They may be labeled and can be wall mounted or free standing (see example photos).

Fire Hose Connection- Wall Mounted Fire Hose Connection- Free Standing

6) Do you store or use any toxic or dangerous chemicals or substances on site that are in containers or tanks holding more than one gallon of the substance?

Warning labels may contain skull and crossbones and/or the words toxic or danger.
If "yes," please describe in this section of the questionnaire.
Note: Toxic or dangerous chemicals can have severe consequences on the public's health if they are drawn into the potable water system. Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are another great source for determining if a substance is toxic or dangerous.

Question 7, Booster Pumps

7) Are there any booster pumps connected to your water supply plumbing?

In most instances the water pressure from the main is sufficient to supply a property with water. Occasionally a pump may be required to increase water pressure. Typically pumps are installed to increase water pressure in high rise buildings and in fire protection systems. You do not need to indicate pumps whose purpose is to circulate fluid through a closed system.
Most small irrigation systems used for a lawn or garden do not require much pressure and do not require a pump. However, if you are using your irrigation system to water a large area a pump may have been installed.

7a) If you have a fire pump, was it installed prior to August 8, 2008?

State standards for fire pumps changed August 8, 2008. Please indicate if your fire pump was installed before August 8, 2008 or not.