Backflow Details and FAQs

Test notifications, account status and non-compliance penalties

It takes all of us to help protect our public drinking water system. The City of Vancouver appreciates your assistance in protecting our drinking water system by installing, maintaining and testing backflow assemblies. Please ensure your state approved backflow prevention assembly is properly installed and tested.

We send the first backflow assembly testing reminder notice 45 days prior to the due date. If we don’t receive a passing backflow test report by the due date, a second notice is generated giving you 30 days to respond. If we still have not received a passing backflow test report by the due date of the second notice, a third notice is generated giving you 30 days to respond. If we still have not received a passing backflow test report by the due date of the third notice, your account becomes non-compliant.

Once your account becomes non-compliant, we provide a courtesy phone call notifying you that we have not received a passing backflow assembly test report. A fourth notice is generated notifying you that in 15 days a $250 fine will be assessed on your water utility account. A fifth notice will be generated notifying you that the $250 fine has been assessed on their water utility account and if after 60 days we still have not received a passing backflow test report, a fine of $500 will be assessed on your water utility account. If we do have receive a passing backflow test report by the due date of the fifth notice, a sixth notice is generated notifying you that a $500 fine has been assessed on their water utility account and in 30 days a $1,000 fine will be assessed on your water utility account and water service will be terminated until your account becomes compliant.

Standard Details

For information pertaining to the location and installation requirements for each type of backflow assembly, please visit Water Design and Construction Requirements. This includes:

Certified backflow assembly testers: If you would like assistance in determining the service area for the backflow assembly test that you are performing, please contact us for a copy of our water system map.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a backflow incident and am I liable for damages?

A backflow incident occurs when non-potable substance(s) enter the City’s public drinking water distribution system. Examples of backflow incidents are when a customer winterizes their sprinkler irrigation system and air is introduced into the City’s water distribution system and when water quality issues are experienced after consuming drinking water when cross-connections occur within a customer’s water supply system without appropriate backflow prevention in place.

Customer’s whose property pose a health risk to the City’s water system could be liable for damages if a backflow incident occurs and the result is sickness, death, or property damage. Please help us protect our water system by eliminating cross-connections and/or installing approved backflow preventers.

What is an approved backflow preventer?

An approved backflow preventer is a type of backflow prevention that the City relies on to protect our water system from contamination. It is classified as either: an approved air gap or an approved backflow prevention assembly. Examples of an approved backflow prevention assembly include: RPBA, RPDA, DCVA, and DCDA.

Why do I need a backflow assembly?

These assemblies, when properly maintained, will stop potentially hazardous water entering the potable drinking water system when backflow occurs. Installation requirements vary for residential and commercial properties, depending on the water use and assessed health hazard.

What is a backflow assembly test?

A backflow assembly test is a test performed by a Washington State certified backflow assembly tester. The tester connects their test kit to the backflow assembly and checks to ensure the components of the assembly are operating properly, checks for leaks and ensures the internal components of the backflow assembly are operating properly. To ensure the safety of the city’s drinking water, the backflow assembly test is required to be completed at least annually, scheduled and paid for by the customer. The tester will notify the customer as well as the city of the test results.

How often do I need to schedule the backflow assembly test?

Washington State Law (WAC 246-290-490) and Vancouver Municipal Code (VMC 14.04.155) require annual backflow assembly testing. There are internal operating parts that are susceptible to wear and failure. Annual testing ensures that the assembly is operating properly, safely protecting our drinking water system. Property owners are ultimately responsible for scheduling and completing backflow assembly testing requirements.

Can I be put on an automatic testing list by the City?

No. The City of Vancouver does not offer this service. It’s up to the customer to schedule the backflow assembly test.

I received a notice to schedule a backflow assembly test. What do I do?

Locate your backflow assembly. General location information is provided at the bottom of the notice. Backflow assemblies are commonly located near the water meter. They can be located anywhere on the property depending on how it was installed. If it is in an in-ground box, make sure it is not covered in dirt or debris. Clean and even hose off the assembly if needed. Call a backflow assembly tester on the list as soon as you receive the reminder testing notice and schedule a test. You don’t typically need to be home for this test but will need to arrange how you will pay the tester. Once tested, the tester should provide you a copy of the test as well as send us a copy. You are not required to send in a copy of the test report, unless requested.

When is my backflow assembly test due?

For single-family residential customers, the following chart determines when your backflow assembly test is due. For larger residential and commercial accounts, the due date is the 1st of the month agreed upon when the account was established.

Service Address Zip CodeResidential Customer Test Due Date
98682April 1
98684, 98607May 1
98683June 1
98664, 98662July 1
98665, 98663, 98660, 98661August 1

Notices: How many and how often are they mailed?

The City emails and sends letters to property owners, tenants, and property managers notifying of the responsibility to schedule and complete the backflow assembly test(s). Please coordinate to schedule the backflow assembly test(s). We mail up to three notices before account(s) become non-compliant.

Can I receive my notice via email?

Please contact Water Quality at to let us know your service address and best email in which electronic reminder notices will be sent to.

What if I need additional time to schedule my backflow assembly test?

Our new backflow software will not allow us to grant extension of backflow assembly test(s). If your backflow assembly test(s) fails, the repairs and retesting must be completed by the due date of your backflow assembly test(s). Please schedule the backflow assembly test as soon as possible. Multi-family and commercial customers may request an extension of the backflow assembly test(s) by contacting the Water Quality office at or 360-487-8276.

What do backflow assembly testers charge to perform the backflow assembly test?

Although we do not see any of the backflow assembly testing fees, we have found that generally a residential backflow assembly test will cost between $35 and $75. The average cost of the backflow assembly test is around $50.

I had my backflow assembly tested. What do I do now?

Your backflow assembly tester should provide us a signed copy of the test report. You should also receive a copy of the test report for your records. In case the test report is not received by our office, you can send us a copy of your report, if requested. If your test failed, contact your backflow tester for repairs and subsequent retesting of the backflow assembly.

When is the best time to have my backflow assembly tested?

Test as early as possible. You do not have to wait for reminder letters or due dates to have you your backflow assembly tested. Summer months are incredibly busy. Tester’s schedules are often booked for several weeks in advance for testing and irrigation repairs. Testing is much easier to schedule in March vs. June or July. Testing is also required after initial installation, repair, replacement, or relocation of the backflow assembly by a Washington State Certified Backflow Assembly Tester. 

I had my backflow assembly tested recently, but I received another notice for testing. What do I do?

Please give your tester time to fill out and submit the report. We receive reports electronically, by mail and in person. We try and enter all reports before mailing out reminder notices. There could be times when notices are received during the same time notices are mailed. There may be multiple backflow assemblies and a new tester may not test them all. Check with your tester to request that they send us a copy of the test report.

I received a notice that does not belong to me. What do I do?

Please contact our office to notify us if you received mail that does not belong to you or if there has been a change in ownership or mailing address changes. Thank you for your assistance.

I no longer use my sprinkler system. Do I still need to test?

Yes, the backflow assembly is there to prevent contaminants from entering the potable water supply which are there whether or not you are using your sprinkler irrigation system. If you decide to abandon your sprinkler system, your backflow assembly can be removed. Email the Water Quality office at or call 360-487-8276 and we can outline the process.

Is a plumbing permit required for installation or removal of the backflow assembly?

Yes, a City of Vancouver plumbing permit is required. This is considered an alteration of the plumbing system.

Additional questions about backflow and cross-connection prevention

Backflow test reports submissions