The garden hose is a standard in the home garden. It helps water plants, bathe dogs, cool off kiddos, fill pools, and a host of other important functions. But without the proper safety precautions, it can also make you sick.
Throughout your property there are number of points where plumbing and irrigation in your home connect to the public water supply. Each connection to the drinkable (potable) water and a non drinkable (non potable) water supply must be carefully secured and regulated. That’s why anyone who installs irrigation or plumbing on your property must have a license. However, the standard spigots on the outside of your home can also become a point of cross connection, due to a phenomena called back siphonage.
Back siphonage occurs when the pressure from the supply side of the system (e.g. main city water) drops and pulls water from the outlet side (e.g. garden hose) back into the system. The most common example of this is when someone leaves a hose in the swimming pool to fill it up and the fire department taps into a nearby fire hydrant. The pull of the water from the hydrant sucks the water out of the swimming pool, through the main supply, and out to the hydrant. Then a boil water order is issued. This is just one way it can happen. A number of other pressure drops can occur and the garden hose is the most common offender.
The Contaminants in Your Hose Water
Many contaminants are introduced through your hose, some in ways you may not know about.
Hose Material: The material of your common garden hose is made from materials that can degrade and become toxic.
Spray Fertilizers and Pesticides: Those hose spray attachments that make fertilizing and insect control easy can also end up in your potable water.
Pool Water: Leaving the hose submerged in the pool creates an opportunity for chlorine (*Ahem* and whatever else might be floating in there) to seep into your home’s drinking water.
Garden Hose Safety
Now that I’ve scared you, I can tell you that protecting your home’s water supply from your garden hose is a really simple and inexpensive fix that you can do yourself. It just takes a part from your local home improvement center. Its called a Hose Bibb Vaccum Breaker and is pictured here. You attach it to the spigot and then attach the hose. It acts as a barrier between the two connections and stops back siphonage.
Phew! Crisis averted.