Update (3/17/22): PWSA is keeping track of all complaints that are sent to water4gardens@pgh2o.com, so please email them with your concerns. They say they will use that information to craft a policy particular to gardens. We are actively working on a plan to mitigate this situation and will share updates periodically. 
What is a backflow preventer?

All community gardens and urban farms with PWSA accounts are required to install backflow preventers and have them inspected annually. If you are the Water for Gardens PWSA program account holder for your community garden or urban farm, you may have received a letter requesting that you submit backflow preventer inspection paperwork or your water service may be interrupted. (See example below)

Grow Pittsburgh is committed to helping you navigate these changes and will advocate on behalf of gardens challenged by this requirement. Please get in touch with rayden@growpittsburgh.org or 412-573-9784 if you need assistance. 

Letter requesting that you submit backflow preventer inspection paperwork
What is “backflow’?

The water for your garden is hooked up to the public water supply via the meter pit. Occasionally, pressure changes in the larger system may temporarily reverse the flow of water, causing water and other materials from a garden to be sucked into the main supply line. Backflow is potentially dangerous because contaminants like fertilizers or harmful chemicals may pollute drinking water.

What is a “backflow preventer”?

A backflow preventer makes sure water only flows in one direction – from the main water supply to your garden. It is a metal part that is attached to a water piping system, sometimes inside a meter pit, but most likely outside of it. A standard testable dual check backflow preventer costs around $200-300. It needs to be installed by a plumber.  It needs to be removed and stored securely at the time the water is shut off at the end of the season to prevent damage from freezing or theft. When the water is turned back on for the season, it can be reinstalled. (Source)

How do I get it inspected?

PWSA should have sent you a letter requesting you to get your water system inspected within 90 days or your water service may be interrupted. If you need additional time, reach out to water4gardens@pgh2o.com. You will need to find state certified backflow specialist to perform the inspection.  ASSE (American Society of Sanitary Engineers) Certified Plumbers: https://forms.iapmo.org/asse/certified/. Your tester will submit the test result through PWSA’s backflow test submission portal. Reach out to the Backflow Team at backflowinfo@pgh2o.com  to obtain a pin number for your device to submit results online. You will receive an email notification when PWSA approves the test result submission. Annual inspection may cost between $80-200, depending on the plumber. If this cost presents a hardship, please let water4gardens@pgh2o.com and rayden@growpittsburgh.org know.

What if my water system doesn’t have a backflow preventer?

You can get a quote from a local plumber to do the installation.

What if our garden can’t afford the cost of inspection or installation?

Contact water4gardens@pgh2o.com first to let them know you need an extension. Please get at least one quote from a certified plumber to perform the work and apply to Grow PIttsburgh’s Community Garden Sustainability Fund (due April 1). Because the cost of installation may be far higher than projects we typically fund, we would recommend reaching out to a few different funding sources.

How do I get my water turned on for the season?

Contact water4gardens@pgh2o.com and they can often get the water turned on within a day or two. They wont turn on water until after April 1 (to avoid breakage due to freezing).

Part 2 about the new Stormwater Fee and how to get a fee reduction for your garden account.
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