Cross Connections at Irrigation Systems: CUD Policy

automatic sprinkler system watering the lawn on a background of green grass, close-up

Lawn irrigation systems — both commercial and residential — are recognized by the State of Tennessee as high-risk, health hazard cross connections. The contact between sprinkler heads and soil or rainwater allows a connection between potable water and unsafe water. Therefore, soil and standing water in contact with sprinkler heads pose a significant risk of containing E. coli, Giardia, harmful chemicals, and fertilizers.

As part of our continuing cross connection program at Consolidated Utility District (CUD), it is necessary to test all backflow prevention devices annually. This includes irrigation backflow prevention devices installed on property controlled or owned by our customers.

A printable PDF explaining CUD’s policy on cross connections and backflow testing is available here. CUD also offers a printable list of certified testers.

The Division of Water Supply regulation 0400-45-01-.17(6) requires ALL IRRIGATION BACKFLOWS to be tested after installation and during startup each year. If the irrigation system is turned on and NOT tested, the water service could be disconnected until the device is tested — with up to a $500 fine assessed for failure to comply with regulations.

The following are the action steps associated with Division of Water Supply Regulation 0400-45-01.17(6) and Consolidated Utility District Policy:

1. Installation, routine inspection, and testing of devices
A: To assure proper function, devices MUST BE TESTED EVERY 365 DAYS by a tester with a Certificate of Competency and who is approved by CUD.
B: All irrigation systems MUST BE TESTED DURING THE STARTUP PERIOD. Testing prior to shutdown (winterization) is not accepted.
C: Any time a device has been partially disassembled for cleaning, repair, or replacement, that device must be tested. A copy of the test must be submitted to CUD.
D: Upon completion of any test, a copy of the test report must be submitted to CUD by the certified tester.
E: All devices must be tested immediately following installation.
F: All backflows must be installed outside and above ground, according to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) regulations and CUD policy — and a permit must be pulled at CUD’s office.

2. Allowed time to repair a failed device
All failed devices must be repaired, retested, and passed within 30 days of the original test.

3. Installing correct backflow device
All commercial, irrigation, apartments, churches, public pools, and any hazards according to TDEC must have a reduced pressure zone device. Double-check devices are allowed ONLY on Class 1-3 fire systems. In the case of a violation, water service will be discontinued, and the customer will be assessed a $500 fine for failure to comply with regulations.

If you are not planning to use your irrigation system, the backflow device must be removed, and the irrigation system capped. If you have any questions about this or CUD’s cross connection program, please contact CUD Water Quality Coordinator Randy Harrell at 615-225-3326 or email