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Water Department

Backflow Prevention Information

Congress established the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974 to protect human health from contaminants in drinking water and to prevent contamination of existing groundwater supplies. This Act and its 1986 and 1996 Amendments require many actions to protect drinking water and its sources. One of these actions is the installation and maintenance of an approved backflow prevention assembly at the water service connection whenever a potential hazard is determined to exist in the customer’s system. Without proper protection devices, cross connections can occur.

What is a cross connection?
A connection between your drinking water and another source of water that combines the two when a backflow condition occurs. As a result, your drinking water can become contaminated.

So, What is backflow?
Backflow is when the water in your pipes (the pipes after the water meter) goes backward (the opposite direction from its normal flow). There are two situations that can cause the water to go backward (backflow):
  1. Backpressure – the pressure in your pipes is greater than the pressure coming in.
  2. Backsiphonage – a negative pressure in one of the pipes.
To protect the water system, two kinds of backflow prevention assemblies (devices that prevent the backflow of water) are required for all business customers that present a potential hazard to the water system:
  1. External – to protect the water from cross connection with the water on the customer’s premises.
  2. Internal – to protect the customer from potentially hazardous cross connections in his own system.

What is considered a potential hazard?
ANY possibility of pollutants, contaminants, and system or plumbing hazards. This includes, but is not limited to, fire protection systems, irrigation systems, gasoline refineries and stations, restaurants, hospitals, and manufacturers.

To keep your drinking water safe, the City of Clemson Utilities Department checks the plans of each new business for compliance with cross connection/backflow requirements. We take pride in the water we provide and will continue to protect it and our citizens.

What’s the big deal with backflow and cross connections?
Backflows due to cross connections can cause sickness and death.

Even in your own home, you can unwittingly create a cross connection:

  • Putting the garden hose in a swimming pool to fill it.
  • Putting the garden hose in a pet’s water bucket or into the fish tank to fill it.
  • Putting the garden hose down the drain to flush out debris when it’s backed up.
  • Connecting your garden hose to a plant fertilizer or bug spray unit.

*Over half of the nation’s cross connection problems involve unprotected garden hoses.*

What are my responsibilities in preventing backflow and cross connections?
The City of Clemson Utilities Department protects the water entering your system. However, it is your responsibility to protect the water on your property or in your home. Please note that homeowner irrigation accounts require installation of a backflow prevention device on underground systems and have it tested initially by an approved tester before being placed into service and then every three years after that. A certified plumber or contractor can install a backflow preventer for you. The cost will depend on the type of device required and the installation labor. Testing fees vary, so it’s a good idea to call around for pricing. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control offers a list of Certified Inspectors/Testers of Backflow Prevention Equipment . Simply scroll down  the document to Oconee County or Pickens County listings to see local Certified Inspectors and Testers.

Commercial Accounts generally require the business to have backflow prevention as well, and all fire lines are required to have an approved backflow prevention device. Please contact Teddy Atkins at the Utilities Department at if you have questions.

For more information on how to protect the water on your property, please call the City of Clemson Utilities Department Backflow Prevention at (864) 653-2046.

Contact Call Before You Dig

No matter how large or small the digging project, it is important to “Call Before You Dig” or “Click Before You Dig!” By making one simple FREE phone call or by filling out the online form, you can protect yourself and your community from costly fines, repairs, personal injury, or inconvenient outages. 

At least 3 working days (72 hours) prior to digging, call SC811 by dialing 811 or (888) 721-7877 (or fill out the online form). A SC811 representative will record the location of the digging site and notify member utility companies of your intent to dig. Each utility company will either send one of their employees or a contract locator to your dig site to mark the location of their utility lines. Once your lines have been marked, you may begin to carefully dig, keeping in mind the 2.5 feet allowance on either side of the markings.

Failure to call before digging results in 200,000 unintentional cut lines annually. Don’t let your project become part of this statistic.

Drought Information

Sometimes, after a long period without much rain, and especially in the heat of summer, cornfields and other crops may appear dry and shriveled and even fail to produce while streams that were flowing and full of water and life just a few months before may become dry patches of land instead. This is a drought, and during these times, it is important for everyone to conserve water as much as they can.

Water is a precious resource. All living things depend on water to survive. Unfortunately, few of us think much about the importance of water until it is in limited supply. To help you appreciate just how important water is to all of us, here are a few interesting facts:

  • Without water there could be no life. We live on a "water planet." When viewed from space, Earth is blue and white. The blue is the oceans, and the white is water vapor.
  • The human body is about 75% water.
  • Tomatoes are 90% water, potatoes are 80% water, and chickens are 75% water.
  • Less than 2% of the Earth's water supply is fresh water.
  • Nearly 50% of the world's population lacks access to clean water for sanitation, drinking, and other needs.
  • You can save 5 gallons of water a day just by turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth.
  • Almost two-thirds of home water use is for toilet flushing and bathing.
  • A leaky faucet can waste 100 gallons of water a day.
  • One newspaper a day means the use of 66,000 gallons of water a day.
  • It takes 6 gallons of water to produce one gallon of gasoline.
  • About 75% of your brain is water--use it wisely to learn to make water conservation an everyday habit.

Follow these DOs and DON'Ts to save hundreds of gallons of water per week!


  • DO fill the bath tub only halfway and save 10-15 gallons.
  • DO take shorter showers and save 3-5 gallons of water a minute.
  • DON'T use the toilet as a waste basket. Throw trash in a trash basket and avoid flushing unnecessarily.
  • DON'T leave the water running when you brush your teeth or wash your hands or face. Faucets use about 2-3 gallons every minute.


  • DO make sure the dishwasher is full before turning it on. Dishwashers use between 8 and 12 gallons of water per load.
  • DO make sure your clothes washer is full before turning it on. Each load of laundry usually requires 50 gallons or more of water.
  • DO use a bowl of water to clean fruits and vegetables rather than running water over them. Reuse the water in the bowl to water your houseplants.
  • DO store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run every time you want a cool glass of water.
  • DON'T let the water run when washing dishes.


  • DO use a self-closing nozzle on your garden hose.
  • DO use native plants in your garden (plants that normally grow in the area you live and do not need a lot of water or care).
  • DON'T water gardens or lawns during the heat of day. Up to 90% of the water you use is lost through evaporation.
  • DON'T use water to clean off your sidewalks or driveways--use a broom and sweep them instead.

REMEMBER... Never pour water down a drain if it can be used for something else such as watering a garden or cleaning. Educate and encourage your family, friends, neighbors, and school to practice water conservation Try to do one thing each day to conserve water. EVERY DROP COUNTS.

How to Check for Water Leak

Step 1: Turn all water-using appliances off so that no water is being used.
This means turning off all water inside and outside the house including showers, sinks, washing machines, ice makers, and any other appliance that uses water. If you have an automatic irrigation system, turn off the controller.

Step 2: Locate your meter box.
It is generally located near the sidewalk in front of your home in a direct line with the main outside faucet. (Note: It’s important to make sure the meter box lid is uncovered and visible at all times.) Carefully remove the meter box lid using a tool such as a large screwdriver, then stand back. Sometimes ‘critters’ hide inside the box and will be startled when the lid is removed; give them a chance to get out of the way.

Step 3: Examine the Meter Dial
The meter uses a straight-reading dial, which is read similar to a car’s odometer. The meter measures water use in thousands of gallons. The small pointer or dial near the center of the meter is the flow indicator and should not move if you are not using any water inside or outside the home. If the flow indicator is moving, you may have a leak.
  • If there is no indicator and the actual meter dial hand is moving, water is running somewhere in your system and you have a leak – go to step 4.
  • If the hand is not moving, note the position of the hand and wait 10 minutes. Check the meter again, if it has moved, you have a slow leak - go to step 4.
  • If no movement is recorded, you probably don’t have a leak. The meter will not be able to detect leaks in the irrigation system if the system is running
Step 4: To isolate the leak, turn off the water to your house. Your home’s valve is usually located under the outside faucet near the front of the house or under the house. With all water turned off in the house, there should be no movement of the small pointer or any of the dials on the meter. If the leak indicator or dial hand is still moving, water is flowing between the meter and the shut-off valve. That means you could have a leak between the meter and the valve where water enters your home. This is called the ‘service line’. Consider that movement in your meter can also be caused by things like an automatic pool valve or a leaking irrigation valve.

Step 5: Check your irrigation system. If you have leaks in your irrigation system, they may not be noticeable unless your system is on, (solenoid valves require power.) Turn your controller on manually and walk your property looking for broken sprinkler heads, missing spray heads (which will produce small streams of water), or breaks in irrigation piping or tubing. Check for leaks inside the house including toilets, washing machines, faucets, etc.

Step 6: Check for toilet leaks.
Toilet leaks are one of the most common leaks and can sometimes be hard to pinpoint. They will start and stop and sometimes the flapper will not leak at all for a few flushes. To check a toilet for a leak, add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring to the water in the reservoir or tank. Wait 15-30 minutes. If the water in the bowl changes colors, the rubber flapper needs to be replaced. 

Step 7: Congratulate yourself!
You’ve just completed a leak-detection investigation.

How to Read a Water Meter

Locating Your Meter Box
For Residential Customers:
In most cases, the water meter is located at the front of the property near the street in a metal box. A blue line may be painted in the street noting the approximate location of the meter box.

For Commercial Customers:
Generally, the water meter is located at the front of the property, but it could be located on the back or side of property. In some cases, depending on the size of the commercial property, the meter will be locked in a large vault. In these cases, do not attempt to obtain a reading. Please contact the City of Clemson to obtain a reading of the meter.

Meter Odometer:
When looking at the water meter, locate the white numbers on the right side of the meter dial with the black background. These numbers count the number of gallons of water that have passed through your meter. The City of Clemson bills in hundreds of gallons or to the 100 gallon dial. So when you get your bill, the reading will be to the 100th digit, or third dial from the right, on the meter.

Note: Serial number is listed on outside cover.

Determining Your Water Usage

  1. Select a day to take an initial water meter reading.
  2. Write down the numbers you see on the meter odometer. (ex. 0260000)
  3. After a period of time has passed (such as a day or week), read your meter again. (ex. New reading of 0263000)
  4. Subtract your first reading from the second reading. This is your water usage for that period. (ex. 0263000-0260000=3000)
  5. This figure indicates how many gallons of water have been used during the time period between the two readings. (ex. 3000)

If you have any questions about reading your meter please call the City of Clemson Utilities Department at (864) 653-2046.

Report a Water Leak

Broken/Leaking Water Meter
If water is leaking from your water meter, the meter is broken, or the box is damaged, please call the Utilities Department at (864) 653-2046. A crew from the department will be dispatched to check and correct the problem.

Broken Water Main
The Utilities Department maintains all water mains in the street rights-of-way of the City. If a broken main, water running from the ground or a paved surface, or a leaking fire hydrant, is observed please call the Utilities Department during business hours at (864) 653-2046 or call the Police Deparment at (864) 624-2000 after hours, and personnel will be dispatched to check the problem.

Customer Water Lines
The Utility Department maintains all water mains and services in the street rights-of-way up to the water meter. If pipes are broken on the customer's side of the water meter, the pipe must be repaired by the property owner or by a plumber hired by the property owner. If there is an emergency requiring water to be cut off to stop damage, or if the water must be cut off to make a repair, please call the Utility Department during business hours at (864) 653-2046 or the Police Department at (864) 624-2000 after hours, and personnel will be dispatched to cut off the water.

Irrigation Meter Information

If you use a lot of water for watering your lawn or filling your pool, you may be able to reduce your monthly wastewater bill by getting a separate irrigation account, which is a water meter exclusively for outdoor water use. The frequently asked questions below will help you determine if an irrigation meter is a good fit for you. For more information, please contact our Water and Sewer Billing Department at (864) 653-2035.

What’s the advantage in getting a separate irrigation account?
With a separate irrigation account, you won’t pay wastewater charges on the water you use outdoors. You will continue to pay wastewater charges for your residential account that supplies your home, but those charges will be based on your indoor water usage, which typically decreases when you begin using your irrigation meter for outdoor watering.

How much does it cost to install a residential irrigation meter?
The total cost to install a ¾” domestic irrigation meter is $600, (the customer provides everything beyond the meter box).

Please note that homeowner irrigation accounts require installation of a backflow prevention device on underground systems and have it tested initially by an approved tester before being placed into service and then every three years after that. A certified plumber or contractor can install a backflow preventer for you. The cost will depend on the type of device required and the installation labor. Testing fees vary, so it’s a good idea to call around for pricing. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control offers a list of Certified Inspectors/Testers of Backflow Prevention Equipment . Simply scroll down  the document to Oconee County or Pickens County listings to see local Certified Inspectors and Testers..

What is a backflow device?
Backflow preventers protect the City of Clemson’s public water supply from potential contamination by blocking backflow.

How do I apply for an irrigation meter?
Applications for an irrigation meter are available at the Utility Billing Department - 1250 Tiger Blvd Ste 2.

How long will it take to get an irrigation meter installed?
It typically takes three to four weeks from the time you apply and pay for an irrigation account to the time it is installed.

Who can I contact for more information?
Please contact our Utility Billing Department at (864) 653-2035 or Utilities Department at (864) 653-2046.

Irrigation  Picture

Water Conservation Facts

  • The Average Home uses more than 200 gallons of water per day.
  • An average of 8% of all home water use is wasted through leaks.
  • Turning off the water while you brush your teeth can save 4 gallons of water a minute. That’s 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
  • Turning off the water while you shave can save more than 100 gallons of water a week.
  • Fixing a leak can save 500 gallons of water each month.
  • Every toilet flush you eliminate can save between two and seven gallons of water.
  • Taking showers instead of baths can save 30 gallons of water. (Filling the bathtub uses about 50 gallons of water.)
  • Keeping your shower under 5 minutes can save up to 1000 gallons a month.
  • Turning off water while shampooing and conditioning hair can save 50 gallons a week.
  • Using a water-saving showerhead can save your family 500 gallons a week.
  • Running your dishwasher and washing machine only when they are filled can save 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Choosing a water-saving model when replacing a washing machine can save up to 20 gallons per load.
  • Using a hose nozzle and turning off the water while you wash your car can save more than 100 gallons of water.
  • Choosing a low water use plant when replacing or adding a flower or shrub can save 550 gallons each year.

Water Line Flushing

The City of Clemson Utilities Department conducts a comprehensive water line flushing program to maintain a “chlorine residual” throughout the water system. Flushing is a process that rapidly removes water from the City’s water piping system, using water force to scour out materials that may accumulate in the pipes. Water pipes are normally flushed by opening fire hydrants or pipeline “blow-offs.”

Note: During drought conditions, or other events that, in the opinion of the Utilities Director, require water conservation, the flushing may be temporarily modified or cease until conditions improve.

What should I do if I turned on a faucet and the water coming out is discolored?
Should you experience discolored water or your water appears to be cloudy, do not be alarmed. It is recommended you run your spigot for about five minutes or until the water is clear. Discoloration can also be caused by your hot water heater so you may need to flush your water heater by putting a hose on the heater drain, cutting the power off, and then flushing water through your hot water heater until the water clears up. If the water does not clear, notify the City of Clemson Utilities Department (864) 653-2046.

Why are we flushing?
Because water mains are sized to allow adequate and safe flows for fire protection, water typically is moving through the underground pipelines at less than 2 miles per hour. This slow movement can cause corrosion, (i.e. rust and mineral particles) to build up over time and accumulate along the pipe. This corrosion can cause the chlorine residual to degrade thus raising the possibility of a bacteriological problem. This buildup can restrict water flow in the pipes and contribute to corrosion and water color problems.

Isn’t Flushing a waste of water?
No. Any overall increase in the amount of water used in flushing is a small price to pay in maintaining water quality and the integrity of our infrastructure.

How will this affect me?
Usually, you will not be aware that flushing is even taking place in your neighborhood. Flushing is generally conducted between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Select fire hydrants will be opened to flush the water pipes. It typically takes 30 minutes to an hour to flush each hydrant. While the hydrant(s) are being flushed, area businesses and residents may experience discolored water and a pressure drop. Your water service should not be completely interrupted. If you have no water pressure, please notify the City of Clemson Utilities Department at (864)653-2046. Additionally, you will notice wet streets or ditches in your area from the flushed mains.

During the summer months some blow-offs run continuously to maintain a chlorine residual. This is because heat dissipates chlorine and our flow rates are reduced during the time as our large student population leaves.

Our Implementation Plan ensures that:

  • Dead end and low usage mains are flushed periodically.
  • Drinking water standards are met.
  • Sediment and air removal is maintained.
  • Free chlorine residual is maintained.
  • Records including date time, location, persons responsible and length of flushing are maintained and available.
  • Free chlorine residual will be measured and recorded on the end of dead end mains after flushing.

All records associated with the flushing program are maintained at the City of Clemson Utilities Department located at 300 Cochran Road, Clemson, S.C. 29631.

Questions regarding the City’s flushing program may be directed to the City of Clemson Utilities Department (864) 653-2046.

Water Line Flushing

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Utilities Department
300 Cochran Road
Clemson, SC29631

Phone:  (864) 653-2046
Fax:  (864) 653-2076