Recently there have been a rash of commercial irrigation and domestic water back-flow preventers stolen and sold for their scrap metal. While the scrap metal value for the brass and copper contained within these fittings is only about $50.00, day and night thieves are stealing as many as they can, sometimes twice from the same properties. Back-flow preventers are easily recognized, usually placed above ground along the street frontage for most commercial properties. The backflow preventer acts to prevent irrigation or other water from going back into the potable water source from the city in case of contamination. Most jurisdictions in Maricopa County have mandated the use of these valves in commercial buildings.
Thieves have posed as city employees wearing orange vests and have cut off the valve to the preventers using a battery powered sawzall. The whole process can take less than five to six minutes. These thefts have occurred in broad daylight and at prominent and visible locations. If yours is stolen, replacing it is very expensive and can cost as much as $2,000 to $4,000. Their removal will also interrupt water service for your property as well as create possible water damage caused by the water running uncontrolled through the open connection.
How to Protect Yourself
There is no perfect solution, but the following actions are being recommended by the ABPA, law enforcement, backflow installers, landscapers, and plumbing companies.
- Enclose your backflow valve(s) with a protective cage (if you haven’t already).
- Secure it with a tamper-proof lock (a “break-away” lock is easily opened and not recommended). In case of emergency, your maintenance crew should have a copy of the lock’s key.
- The cage should be securely mounted to the cement pad on the ground and painted a desert color to match landscape.
- Make sure the cage has lock guards to prevent their removal.
- Stamp, label, or identify the metal with a recognizable code or name of your own.
- Paint the unit with a desert color.
- Post a visible warning that there is video surveillance on the units. Also on the signs something to the effect of “theft and damage to this unit will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.
- Camouflage the unit by planting screening landscape a foot or so from the back-flow. This will make the unit less visible while still allowing for necessary maintenance access.
- Record model number and serial numbers of all backflow devices.
- Install a small wall to hide backflow devices.
The prices of the cages and installation vary according to design and size. We offer free estimates on all backflow products. For more information please call 480-966-8795.
Our plumbing experts are certified by the State of Arizona backflow device testers. ABPA membership number R1461.