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California Goes Easy On Greywater

July 7, 2009
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In order to conserve more water by “facilitating greater use of greywater in California,” the state may adopt a more lenient greywater code as early as August, the LA Times reports. Under a revised code, a clothes washer or other single-fixture, residential greywater system could be installed or altered without a construction permit.

Since 1992, the state required homeowners installing systems that recycle waste water from sinks, showers, bathtubs and laundry machines conform to Appendix G of the California plumbing code, which states greywater systems not only be permitted by the appropriate administrative authority but installed underground with extensive filtering apparatus.

The update to Appendix G (required by Senate Bill 1258) passed last summer and was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2011. However drought continues to plague California and representatives from Housing and Community Development submitted the new code to the state’s Building Standards Commission for emergency adoption. If approved, as expected, the new code would take effect Aug. 4.

The new standards divide residential greywater systems into three types: a clothes washer and/or single-fixture system; a simple system; and a complex system. Clothes washer systems use only a single washing machine in a one- or two-family dwelling, while single-fixture systems collect greywater from one plumbing fixture or drain, also in a one- or two-family home. Both require homeowners to follow 12 guidelines, but neither require permits to install.

Simple systems are defined as exceeding a clothes washer and or single-fixture system but discharge less than 250 gallons per day. Complex systems discharge more than 250 gallons per day. Each require construction permits, unless exempted by that area’s administrative authority.

Courtesy of the LA Times, the 12 guidelines for clothes washer and/or single-fixture systems are as follows:
    1. If required, notification has been provided to the Enforcing Agency regarding the proposed location and installation of a greywater irrigation or disposal system.

    2. The design shall allow the user to direct the flow to the irrigation or disposal field or the building sewer. The direction control of the greywater shall be clearly labeled and readily accessible to the user.

    3. The installation, change, alteration or repair of the system does not include a potable water connection or a pump and does not affect other building, plumbing, electrical or mechanical components, including structural features, egress, fire-life safety, sanitation, potable water supply piping or accessibility.

    4. The greywater shall be contained on the site where it is generated.

    5. Greywater shall be directed to and contained within an irrigation or disposal field.

    6. Ponding or runoff is prohibited and shall be considered a nuisance.

    7. Greywater may be released above the ground surface provided at least 2 inches of mulch, rock, or soil or a solid shield covers the release point. Other methods which provide equivalent separation are also acceptable.

    8. Greywater systems shall be designed to minimize contact with humans and domestic pets.

    9. Water used to wash diapers or similarly soiled or infectious garments shall not be used and shall be diverted to the building sewer.

    10. Greywater shall not contain hazardous chemicals derived from activities such as cleaning car parts, washing greasy or oily rags, or disposing of waste solutions from home photo labs or similar hobbyist or home occupational activities.

    11. Exemption from construction permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any greywater system to be installed in a manner that violates other provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of the Enforcing Agency.

    12. An operation and maintenance manual shall be provided. Directions shall indicate the manual is to remain with the building throughout the life of the system and indicate that upon change of ownership or occupancy, the new owner or tenant shall be notified the structure contains a greywater system.


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