The California Building Standards Commission has released new standards for ‘gray water’ usage for California homeowners effective January 12. The commission had been expected to release new standards sometime next year but recently adopted the regulations on an ’emergency’ basis due to the ongoing drought. (That was before this weeks rains).
According to the Commission, the average home generates about 160 gallons of gray water a day, 60,000 gallons a year, mostly from shower run-off, washing machines, bath tubs and bathroom sinks. If even 1/3 of that water could be diverted to watering lawns and trees it could have a significant impact on water conservation, not to mention our ever increasing water bills.
Having just purchased a new semi-custom home, I was amazed that more efforts weren’t included to address this issue. Now the floodgates have been opened but the onus has been placed on homeowners to permit and install these systems. There are an estimated 1.7 million gray water systems installed statewide right now but experts have no way of verifying that figure because most of the systems are home-made, do-it-yourself systems installed without permits.
While a simple home-made system can be built for around $200, permits and inspection can easily double that cost so most homeowners have just avoided it. Not to mention the permitting process prior to this new regulation could be quite cumbersome. The new reg’s provide a simple and cost effective guideline and. while local governments can add their own restrictions on top of the new state reg, most cities aren’t planning to.
The new rules, according to the Department of Housing & Community Development, include definitions of gray water, appropriate installation and usage, rules for discharge and specific prohibitions. There are 14 pages in the final release but most of the rules are common sense kinds of things. You can’t use toilet water, don’t water your vegetable garden with gray water, you can’t use gray water to make a pond, don’t channel gray water to a misting system around your patio – things a normal person doesn’t need to be told but then we’re California.
For more information you can read the full regulation at: Ca.gov/graywater regulations
For a more user friendly description and info on creating your own gray water oasis: Oasisdesign/graywater central