Down the Pipeline,

I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss with patrons the dangers and damages of cross connecting your supplied source of drinking water (aka potable water) with Columbia Irrigation District (CID) “dirty” irrigation water.  Our suspicion is that at least 200 households and/or farms are currently cross-connected and probably don’t even know they are at risk.

What is a cross-connection? A cross-connection is any temporary or permanent connection between a public or consumer’s potable water system and any source or system containing non-potable water or other substances. An example is the piping between a public or consumer’s potable water system and an auxiliary water system, or irrigation system.

Why do water suppliers need to control cross-connections and protect their public water systems against backflow? Backflow into a public water system or domestic well can pollute or contaminate the water system making it unusable or unsafe to drink. Each water supplier has a responsibility to provide water that is usable and safe to drink under all foreseeable circumstances. Furthermore, consumers generally have absolute faith that water delivered to them through a public water system is always safe to drink. For these reasons, each water supplier must take reasonable precautions to protect its public water system against backflow.

Besides the health risks associated with cross-connecting drinking water with irrigation water, CID has had to replace piping that ruptured from unknowingly cross-connected pipes that refilled with domestic water and freeze during the winter.

If you suspect that your drinking water might be cross-connected, I have some suggestions on ways that you might be able to tell.  First, if you live in the city and your winter water/sewer bill is much higher in cost than in the summer, your drinking water supply might be flowing into our CID supply line.  Second, if in the summer you notice that your water is murky, you might be receiving CID irrigation water in your drinking water. Third, if you live in the country and your drinking water system is supplied from a well, and you notice your water pump electrical bill is higher in the winter, then you might be pouring drinking water into the CID system.

If you think you are drinking contaminated water, you might want to take a sample to your local health department or certified laboratory for validation to the drinking water standard.  Testing will cost you something, but it might be worth your peace of mind.