Columbia Water may oversee regulatory programs for water customers to protect the City's water supply. Columbia Water is also subject to federal and state water quality regulations.

Backflow Prevention/ Cross-Connection Program | Water Quality Regulations

Backflow Prevention/ Cross-Connection Program

Informative video on backflow and cross connnection - Charleston Water System
What is backflow?
Click above to see an informational video on backflow and cross-connection by Charleston Water System.

Property owners that install systems which could potentially drain non-City or used water back into the City's system should install backflow preventers. These systems might include irrigation systems connected to the City's system that are also serviced by a well, cooling systems with secondary storage containers, or other types of systems.

These systems must be inspected annually by an approved tester PDF document. In addition, they must also be tested by an approved tester PDF document immediately after installation or repairs of any kind. The inspector should submit a Field Test Report PDF document.

Program Contacts

William A. Elswick
Cross Connections Supervisor
2910 Colonial Dr.
Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: (803) 545 3923
Fax: (803) 733 8292

Tracy Squires
Cross Connections Inspector
Phone: (803) 545 3883
Fax: (803) 733 8292

Pamela Steele
Cross Connections Office Assistant
Phone: (803) 545 3876
Fax: (803) 733 8292

Important Documents

Frequently Asked Questions

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

What is a backflow preventer?
Backflow Preventers are mechanical plumbing devices installed in a plumbing system to prevent water from flowing backward in the system. A properly installed, tested and maintained backflow preventer at the service entrance to a building or property can reliably prevent the backflow of water of an unknown quality from flowing back into the community water system.

What can cause backflow?
Backflow can be caused by a sudden drop in the water pressure in a public water main, which can create a sub-atmospheric condition. For example, if a drop in pressure occurs while a hose is in a bucket of dirty water, that water could be sucked back into the public water system, potentially contaminating the water for other users. A drop in pressure could be caused by a variety of things, including a water main break, loss of power at a pump station, etc. Backflow preventers keep this from happening.

Whose responsibility is it to install a backflow preventer?
It is the customer's responsibility to purchase and install the backflow preventer. The backflow preventer is installed to protect the public water supply against possible hazards in the customer’s plumbing system. The actual or potential cross connection belongs to the property owner and not to regulatory officials or the water utility. Once the water goes beyond the meter, water quality could be altered. The water utility does not want the water back, nor do the water customers want to purchase used water. If a backflow preventer is required to keep the water safe, then the person who created the cross connection (actual or potential) should purchase, install and maintain the backflow preventer.

Water Quality Regulations

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) have established strict quality standards for drinking water. These standards are designed to protect consumers against disease-causing bacteria and other harmful substances. EPA requires public water systems to send their customers an annual report containing information about their drinking water quality and compliance with the standards.

The City of Columbia is pleased to present the information contained in the Latest Consumer Confidence Report PDF document to you and hope that it will be both informative and helpful in making personal health-based decisions regarding your drinking water consumption.

We welcome your comments and questions. We may be reached during normal business hours by calling (803) 545 3300. You are also welcome to attend regularly scheduled meetings of City Council that are generally held the first and third Tuesdays of each month at City Hall, 1737 Main Street at 10:00 a.m. Contact the Public Relations Department at (803) 545 3020 for time and location. For more information, visit Engineering Regulations.


1136 Washington St.
Columbia, SC 29201


(803) 545 3300
24 hours a day
7 days a week