Ask Us: What’s behind Salisbury-Rowan Utilities letter?

Published 1:31 pm Monday, November 1, 2021

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to

Salisbury-Rowan Utilities is working to ensure houses with irrigation systems comply with a 2007 ordinance and do not allow contaminated or polluted water back into the water supply.

The utility requires regular testing of a device known as a backflow prevention assembly — a one-way gate that allows water into piping systems and stops it when it tries to flow backward. For irrigation systems, the backflow prevention assembly works to prevent fertilizers or pesticides from entering the water supply. Salisbury-Rowan Utilities Director Jim Behmer said other concerns for backflow into the water supply can include human waste, chlorine from pools or spas and soap from sinks, dishwashers and showers.

Backflow can happen when there’s a water main break or when a fire hydrant is opened, Behmer said.

“Because pressure is lost during these events, water is no longer being pushed forward into your home and will flow backward into the city water lines,” he said.

A reader asked about the devices and ongoing enforcement after receiving a letter from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities that said service could be discontinued without compliance.

“Salisbury-Rowan Utilities may discontinue water service to this address until evidence of your system’s compliance has been provided, the letter states. “Your prompt attention to this matter will avoid disruption of your water service.”

Behmer said the ordinance pertaining to backflow prevention assemblies was adopted on April 3, 2007. The city started by working with industrial and commercial properties that were deemed to be higher hazards before moving to smaller devices used with residential irrigation systems — of which there are about 3,000. The utility divided the city of Salisbury into 12 sections, with each having a specific due date.

Behmer said new construction already complies with the city’s ordinance, but existing residential irrigation systems may not.

A certified tester approved by Salisbury-Rowan Utilities must OK the backflow prevention device yearly, the city’s letter states. The tester then enters the data into an online system, which generates a map for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities of homes with tested and untested systems.

The back flow prevention coordinator for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities is Jeff Isley. People with questions about the testing can contact him at

Will Bell Tower Green’s grass withstand winter?

Bell Tower Green’s grass will brown and go dormant as temperatures drop, but city staff and the park’s proprietors say it should rebound in the spring just fine.

The large, green lawn in the park is a type of Bermuda grass that sits on top of Stalite PermaTill, a grayish mixture of organic matter and sand. Jason Walser, who was vice president of the nonprofit that developed the park, said the root system has established itself well.

“We feel very good about the grass being in excellent shape in the spring when it comes back to life with warmer weather,” Walser said. “Despite not having much water, the grass has really performed well, and it is not ‘dying.’ Just going dormant as expected.

Salisbury Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves confirmed as much, too, saying he expects the grass to bounce back.

The mixture underneath the grass is designed to help the grass withstand trampling as concerts and other events use the park.