Texas advisory group about to cost homeowners $1000 or more

Irrigator Advisory Council (IAC) of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ, our EPA) has submitted petitions for a rule change to 30 TAC Chapter 344 which would declare all lawn and landscape “irrigation systems [be] classified as [public] health hazards” that would cost property owners around $1000 per system to bring into compliance.

If the proposed rule change is adopted, both residential and commercial landscape sprinkler systems would require changes which cost between $800 and $1200 while opening your system up to new problems possibly worse than what the IAC members are attempting to mitigate.

> See the notice of “statewide stakeholder meetings” here (pdf).

In a series of nine public hearings across the state, officials met in Wolfforth in Lubbock County and heard mostly negative comments toward the proposed rule changes from what the agency calls “stakeholders.”

“If passed, this would ban the double-check valve systems that most houses and businesses in the region use today. Therefore, the current irrigation equipment would have to be replaced with approved systems,” reported KLBK Television.

In the petitions, 2017-1198-PET and 2017-1199-PET, there is no evidence cited to justify the rule change.

No evidence is presented that there is a significant failure rate of existing “double check valves” or that such failure rate is greater than the failure rate of the proposed “spill resistant vacuum breakers.” Nor is evidence presented of repeated significant harm to public water systems from failure of the existing double-check backflow preventing valves.

Even if data exists which shows a significant failure rate, comparatively, and repeated serious water system contamination, what evidence exists to show that the proposed new systems do not create yet other problems over the short- or long-term?

Randall Merriott, courtesy of KLBK TV.

Lubbock landscape irrigation professional Randall Merriott said about the rule change: “The type of irrigation backflow preventer that we use now, it’s underground so it’s not as likely to freeze. But under the new rules, that assembly would no longer be permitted, and the only type of assembly that would be allowed would have to be installed above ground. So you’re talking probably every home that has to upgrade their sprinkler system could be like $1,000 dollars.”

It is impossible for the state to do a proper cost versus benefit analysis for this proposed change without presenting empirical evidence of comparative failure rates in the field as well as the actual significance of these rates of failure to public water supply safety.

“Then you have labor to install it, you’ve got to insulate it, and in some cases people have to put heat tape on it,” Merriott said. “Then you have to remember to plug that in when it freezes or you’re going to have a broken pipe and water running down the street in the middle of a freeze. Then that’s going to cause accidents. It’s going to cause a lot of headaches,” Merriott added.

“There are more costs to the devices,” Jeromy Gowdy said at the Wolfforth meeting according to KLBK. “So if you’re installing a new irrigation system, there will be more additional upfront costs, maintenance on the devices will be a little greater because they are more prone to vandalism.”

> File your “stakeholder” comments online here, deadline is February 28, 2018. Choose this rule in the form: “2018-004-344-CE: Landscape Irrigation Backflow Assemblies.”

It is impossible for the state to do a proper cost versus benefit analysis for this proposed change without presenting empirical evidence of comparative failure rates in the field as well as the actual significance of these rates of failure to public water supply safety.

Without such evidence one is not able to determine if the huge statewide cost to the public of refitting irrigation systems is justified in balance to the costs to the public in back flow contamination to water systems.

UPDATE 2/15/2018: Senators Charles Perry and Kel Seliger and Representatives Dustin Burrows, John Frullo, and Drew Springer send letter to TCEQ fighting this costly possible mandate. Read the letter (pdf) here.



  1. Kirk Lewis says:

    Sounds politically familiar, “ there’s no evidence so we must regulate it.”

  2. Just more government over reach.

  3. There are some risks but very small. There are over 13 million lawn sprinkler systems in the US according to the EPA, so where are the huge outbreaks of illnesses? For years, sprinkler systems were considered to be “low hazard”, but new international plumbing codes have lumped all hazards into one classification “health hazards”, and double checks aren’t approved for health hazards. By the way, the code also requires annual testing on backflow assemblies on health hazards. Periodic testing should be required, but I think every three years is frequent enough. The cost of this proposed change will be very high with very little benefit to public health.

  4. Ron Pedersen says:

    If this “problem” has been generated by a lobby, then the health hazard, at a $1000 per lawn, could become a 13-billion-dollar industry to “fix”. The PRZ valves produced by certain manufacturers might benefit greatly from this politically generated health hazard “crisis” as well as the irrigation contractors employed to retro-fit the existing systems. Punishing home-owners and businesses who own previously approved irrigation systems is counter-productive and demonstrates bureaucratic overreach for “curing a non-problem”.

  5. Thomas Simmons says:

    That’s about right, typical government. Just when you’re supposed to have more money in your paycheck, they are right there with their hand out. I think we need to see proof of studies on this matter.

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