National Backflow Prevention Day

August 5, 2021

August 16, 2021, is National Backflow Prevention Day, which commemorates one of the world’s first backflow-related tragedies and recognizes the countless advancements made in backflow prevention technology since then. Over the ensuing decades, these advancements have improved the daily lives and overall health of billions of people worldwide.

What is National Backflow Prevention Day?

National Backflow Prevention Day is a collaborative effort led by Watts Water Technologies, Inc., which for more than a century has been a world leader in water-related technologies and solutions. The purpose of National Backflow Prevention Day is four-fold: to acknowledge the importance of backflow prevention, to help educate the public about the importance and usages of this life‐saving technology, and to recognize the water-quality professionals responsible who design, install, and maintain backflow preventers on a global scale. Fourthly, this special day remembers the victims of one of the world’s most tragic backflow incidents.

What Happened on August 16, 1933?

The August 16, 1933 event was one of the first documented backflow incidents, and one of the deadliest. In 1933, not long before the Chicago World’s Fair was scheduled to open, city planners put profit over health by abandoning quality plumbing practices and instead focusing on the creation of housing for as many fair-goers as possible. In the face of this reckless expansion, Chicago’s water mains and sewage system proved grossly undersized, poorly designed, and rich with unhealthy impurities for which there was no contingency plan.

Two of the key hotels used in this endeavor had cross‐connections between rooftop water towers, with one connection being clean and the other dirty. The intermixing of the two led to a badly contaminated water supply and an influx of germs that spawned dozens and dozens of severe cases of amoebic dysentery. Because the disease’s incubation period is 12 – 30 days, detection didn’t happen right away and in one place. Instead, the problem went undiagnosed until nearly 100 people had died and another 700 had fallen ill over a span of 206 cities in the U.S., with an additional 1,000 additional cases in the city of Chicago alone. Each and every case was traced back to the water supply of the two hotels.

Out of Tragedy, Hope

In the aftermath of the August 16, 1933 outbreak, it was clear that immediate action was needed to ensure that such a tragedy would never happen again. Chief amongst developments was the creation of the Foundation for Cross Connection Control and Hydraulic Research, which today is a division of the University of Southern California. Over the years, the professionals who have passed through the Foundation have gone on to revolutionize the challenging field of backflow prevention, renowned for their dedication and insights in the water safety industry. In fact, many plumbing professionals consider these backflow prevention pioneers to be the Green Berets of the Plumbing Industry–testing, installing, and maintaining systems in the harshest conditions and with no blueprint, save for their own ingenuity. Without backflow prevention and backflow test kits, people would routinely face the risk of consuming water with toxins, chemicals, waste, and countless other contaminants.

Learn More About Backflow Prevention Today

On August 16, 2021, Mid-West Instrument and thousands of other companies in the backflow prevention industry will celebrate National Backflow Prevention Day by acknowledging new technologies and backflow accessories, attending backflow prevention webinars, and interacting online with manufacturers. Contact us today to learn more about backflow prevention and how you can make an impact.