Restrictions Eased
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NCTlogoWATER: State eases restrictions on home gray water systems

By BRADLEY J. FIKES - bfikes@nctimes.com | Posted: January 19, 2010 5:40 pm |

Water-conscious residents will now find it easier to reuse "gray water" from household sinks, showers and washing machines under state regulations adopted this month.

Residents don't have to get a state permit to install simple gray water systems in their homes under the new rules by the California Building Standards Commission. These systems take water from indoors and either send it directly to outdoor irrigation or store water in tanks for later use.

Such systems are add-ons that divert water from the disposal system and reroute it. For example, washing machines can be connected to a pipe-and-hose setup that leads outside.

The new rules don't apply to discharges from dishwashers or toilets, which must be disposed of through the sewage system. They also don't apply to gray water systems that alter already -installed plumbing. These still require a permit.

Emergency regulations to help stretch drought-strained water supplies went into effect in August, said Dave Walls, the commission's executive director. Those regulations were made permanent Jan. 12.

"Now it's a done deal," Walls said.

Residents can either install their own gray water systems or buy one from a company that sells them. In both cases, they must satisfy building code requirements meant to ensure the water stays on the property. The size of storage tanks is also limited.

The Building Standards Commission lists the rules at  www.bsc.ca.gov. An easier-to-use guide to installation is available at  www.oasisdesign.net. Click on the link to "Gray Water Central."

Superior Water, a Poway-based company that sells gray water systems, hopes to see a jump in sales but it hasn't materialized yet, said Kevin Norton, an eco innovation consultant with the company.

People just haven't heard about the easier new rules, Norton said.

"There's been very little, if any, public education here in San Diego," Norton said. "We really need to get this (news) out there."

La Jolla resident Joe McGoldrick said he's reduced his home's water consumption by 38 percent with a system from Superior Water. The water is used for irrigating their yard.

"Rather than using our sprinkler system, we're using a hand sprinkler," McGoldrick said.

"After the system was installed last fall, water use fell so much that the city's water utilities department sent out employees to replace the meter, he said.

"My wife went out and said, what are you doing here? They said, you have a defective meter."

The system filters the water to a degree, but doesn't remove soap, McGoldrick said.

"However, McGoldrick said there hasn't been any signs of damage to the plants.

Call staff writer Bradley J. Fikes at 760-739-6641.

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