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Heights water valve

Mark Riley, owner of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in Billings, holds a pressure reduction valve on Friday. Some customers in the Heights water district may need these installed to combat higher pressure in the system.

A move to a gravity-fed water reservoir in the County Water District of Billings Heights will require some customers to pay for a little plumbing work.

The new reservoir, which is a move away from water delivered from pump stations, increased the water pressure in the system. To combat an excess in pressure, some water users must install a pressure-reduction valve at the incoming water line.

Excess pressure can damage plumbing systems.

Heights district general manager Duke Nieskens said this affects about a fifth of their 5,500 customers.

“We sent out the three notices, and it roughly affected somewhere around 1,000 to 1,100 residents,” he said.

In May, the district began sending word that customers may need to install a valve. The district doesn't require them, and whether they're necessary varies according to the type of water systems in homes, user preference and different uses, like underground sprinklers.

Nieskens said water pressure for homes in the district varied, but most were around 90 pounds per square inch, or PSI. The average increase with the new reservoir was between five and 12 PSI, he said.

Some homes might already have pressure-reduction valves. International plumbing code suggests them at 80 PSI.

“Some systems require them," Nieskens said. "Some give customers the opportunity to install them if they want.”

The valve itself is a simple, small piece that's typically installed upstream of all household water uses.

Mark Riley, owner of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, said that the cost will vary quite a bit for different homes, but a valve install can set someone back $250.

“Generally, a fairly simple install," he said. "But it does depend on the piping that is in currently.”

More costs could arise if a customer opts for an expansion tank. The tank is a reservoir for excess back-flow pressure that can't escape past a pressure-reduction valve. Without it, the pressure could force water out of a valve on the water heater and onto the floor.

The tanks aren't required. But if a customer wants a valve or expansion tank installed due to the new water district reservoir, the district won't help with the cost.

“We provide water at the water main pressure," Nieskens said.


General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.