It's now easier to "do the right thing" for the environment, and your pocketbook, in the city of San Diego.
The city council on Tuesday eased restrictions on the use of “graywater”.
That’s water from your washing machine, bathtub and shower, that would usually go down the drain, and into the sewer.
Hundreds of San Diegans are now reusing that so-called “graywater”, by piping it to their yards, where it saturates fruit trees and other landscapes.
The city will no longer require permits for “graywater” irrigation systems that use less than 250 gallons a day from washing machines.
You'll still need a permit to re-use shower or bathtub water, but the process will be streamlined.
Toilet water and water from sinks can not be used in this process.
But experts say washing machine and shower/tub water is absolutely safe.
“It's a way we can save money, cut red tape and save water, all at the same time,” says San Diego
City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who championed the new, stream-lined regulations. “It's like creating our own local supply of water without too much effort."
Brook Sarson installed a simple "gray-water" system, in South Park.
It saves hundreds of gallons a week by channeling water from the washing machine, to pipes in the backyard.
But Sarson, who owns the rainwater and graywater consulting firm H2ome, says the city of San Diego’s former policy of charging between three and seven hundred dollars for a gray-water permit discouraged home-owners who wanted to install the system.
“It was doubling the cost of a gray water system, which would make it pretty much inaccessible to your average resident who wants to do the right thing."
Candace Vanderhoff agrees.
She’s an architect and environmentalist who owns the “graywater” consulting firm Rainthanks & Greywater.
Vanderhoff says the washing machine reuse systems include a three-way valve, that lets you send washing machine water to the sewer line, when you wash diapers or other contaminated clothes, or use bleach in your laundry.
Vanderhoff uses the system to water an array of fruit trees in the back yard of her South Park home
Pointing to a guava tree she says, “This tree was doing okay with a small amount of water, but when we added gray water, we get about 500 guava off this tree in the spring time."
Vanderoff says water is too expensive, and too scarce to waste.
Especially in San Diego, where so much of our water is imported.
"So this is a way that we can reuse our water, reduce our water bill, reduce the load on the Pt. Loma treatment facility, and then also grow food. Organic food."