Reduced Pressure Zones

Today, kids, we’re going to master a principle of residential plumbing: keeping potable and non-potable sources of water separate. Similar to our circulatory system, where arteries and veins function to isolate oxygen rich blood from oxygen poor, household plumbing has distinct (but conjoined) systems of pipes to insulate clean water from dirty.


As you know, water is normally maintained at a significant pressure within the pipes to enable it to flow quickly from the tap or shower. If that pressure fails or is significantly reduced, as may happen when a water main bursts or pipes freeze, then the resulting pressure drop may allow contaminated water to be drawn back into the system. This unwanted flow of water in the reverse direction is known as “backflow.” The point at which a potable water system connects with a non-potable water system is referred to as a “cross connection.” A backflow prevention device, also known as a reduced pressure zone (RPZ) device, is used to protect potable water supplies from being polluted by backflow. The simplest and most effective way to achieve this is to provide an air gap.


That is all I will ever know about plumbing. The end.


However, this ignorance cannot stop me from using RPZ as an analogy in my ever expanding Roster of Re-booting Resilience.


When you think about it, each of us exists in a high pressure zone—some even do our best work under these conditions–after all, it’s pressure of one sort or another which motivates us to get off our duffs and accomplish goals. Without any need to perform, it might be difficult to distinguish us from a lump on a log, so pressure can be a very good thing. We get ourselves in trouble, however, when the pressure goes awry. Too much and we might spew out all manner of ugly things, too little and we fizzle out.


What’s problematic is when drips and drabs of the more toxic, contaminated elements of ourselves slip into the mix. At first, nobody may notice—a little snarky comment here, a whiff of resentment there leaves a hint of an odor or the faintest metallic taste, but usually gets diluted by our more normal, functioning selves. If left unchecked, however, that backflow of bad attitudes can increase and spread contagion way faster than we realize. This is why we need to be certain we have our own RPZ devices installed and fully functioning.


As you learned in my highly informative plumbing tutorial, one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent backflow is to install an air gap. That sort of pause or suspension is a tiny example of the macro re-booting shutdown process. It’s a temporary halt of sorts. If you’re anything like me, you usually can tell when a bad mood is descending or when you’re reaching your limits of goodwill or patience. You may know it, but those around you won’t always recognize those first, initial rumblings. As finely tuned as they may be to changes in your mood, nobody other than you can better discern the storm clouds gathering in your psyche. And even if you’re able to control yourself sufficiently to “hide” or limit seeps of backflow, it’s still contaminating your system. The RPZ device provides a catch basin to isolate those toxins looking to worm their way back in.


What strategies have you devised to furnish that “air gap” between your angry, frustrated self and your normal, functioning one? What is your personal RPZ device?


And no, the temporary numbing effect offered by a garden variety of addictive behaviors doesn’t count. Staring at the computer in order to avoid interacting with your family or inventing reasons to leave home every weekend is not recognized by the Plumbing Contractors Association as an approved backflow countermeasure. You may be able to apply for a permit exception once in a blue moon, but other than that, you’re out of luck. Sorry.


So, what blue print might you sketch out to manage this challenge? Everybody wrestles with this; it isn’t unusual. We’re all decent people, none of whom sets out to contaminate ourselves, or those around us, with our bile. This is why responsible parties take steps to install effective relief valves.


So concludes our plumbing tutorial for the day.

 RPZ sketch





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2 Responses to “Reduced Pressure Zones”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Cute. However, I would NOT recommend a career in plumbing for you.

  2. dignitarysretreat Says:

    One of many technical fields in which I wouldn’t except! Too bad, it could bring in a nice living!

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