Last revised 2/2/2009
Summary: A history of the evolution of gray water standards; pretty California-centric but includes the rest of the US.
On this page:
The original impetus for this page was the near-comical inability of central actors in this drama to figure out what the CURRENT greywater law was in late 2008, in Santa Barbara, California, where the greywater regulation revolution was born.
In the course of trying to unsnarl the current mess, I kept running into interesting history, which so far as I know isn't on the web anywhere. So, here it is.
Thanks to Larry Farwell, the guy who started it all; Jane Taylor of the California Building Standards Comission; and Steve Bilson, dogged legal warrior of ReWater Systems, for corrections, additions, and clarifications to this account.
Any remaining errors are my fault. If you have anything to add or correct, please E mail us.
I'd be interested to add early greywater history, like when it was made illegal in the first place.
—Art Ludwig, Santa Barbara, January 28th, 2009.
August 1989— Santa Barbara legalizes greywater. (They are the first district in the US with building codes to do so, it is said.) Santa Barbara Board of supevisors approves residential use of greywater in response to a letter from Goleta water district conservation office. This letter asks that greywater be redefined as separate from blackwater. Kitchen sink and diaper laundry water stay with toilet water under the "blackwater" heading. There is apparently no state prohibition of greywater; county is the only obstacle to overcome. Legaleese: Appendix C: change to SB County Building Code ordinance 3665.
Personal note/ disclosure: My Dad sent me a newspaper clipping describing this historic legalization of greywater in our home town. It reached me right after I developed the first laundry detergent that biodegrades into plant food, at UC Berkeley, and while I was wondering what, if anything, to do about it. Oasis Biocompatible Products was launched in Santa Barbara on Earth Day 1990. We attained our one year sales goal ten days later. I sold this business to a competitor in 1997 and have no financial interest in cleaners now. We've never had a financial stake in any commercial greywater system. Sales of hard-to-find parts as a service for do-it yourselfers (the margins suck) comprise a few percent of our income. Sales of accurate greywater information currently (2009) supply about 40% of our income. The first edition of the "Oasis Greywater Information" booklet was published in Spring of 1991, to save us from being stuck on the phone forever answering system design questions from our soap customers.
May 1991— Five other cities or counties have a greywater ordinance by this point. Santa Barbara County publishes "How to Use Greywater: Guidelines to the reuse of Greywater in Santa Barbara County."
Feb 5th, 1992— CA ad Hoc greywater committee releases Appendix W, which was based on the International Plumbing and Mechanical Official’s Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) format, which California adopts as its model plumbing code. Appendix W provides only for mini leach fields, which can serve for greywater irrigation in a pinch, but are more suited for disposal of clarified septic effluent. Mini-leachfields as described in the code have not been built anywhere before this time, or since, so far as I know.
Mid February, 1992— Assembly Bill 3518 (AB3518, Sher, Palo Alto) an act to add chapter 22 to division 7 of the water code: "greywater systems for single family residences”. This bill requires a greywater code to be created by DWR in consultation with DHS by July 1, 1993. The idea behind this legislation was to give California a greywater irrigation code in a format that building officials would be accustomed to using and in a place where they could readily find it.
AB3518 was unanimously passed by the Assembly and Senate and became California’s greywater irrigation law. Water Code Section 14875 et seq AB3518 directed DWR, in consultation with DHS, to write a code for safe greywater “use”, versus disposal as found in Appendix W, which had been sent by Fady Mattar, then Director of Standards for IAPMO, to IAPMO’s full body to be considered for adoption into the UPC as an appendix. With AB3518, Heavyweight CA had broken through IAPMO’s stranglehold on California’s plumbing code.
AB3518 recognized greywater was a valuable resource and was written for the use, not disposal, of this very valuable resource. Larry Farwell, the motive force behind the SB greywater law change, is hired by the State DWR to help write the code. He was asked to apply his greywater advocacy at the state level.*
September 1992— Greywater legalized in any/all of 17 UPC based Western States. Appendix J was adopted by the UPC at a meeting in Anchorage, AK. People were stunned. No one was against it at the meeting; it just sailed through. But per IAPMO’s appendix, greywater was only legalized in any of the 17 UPC based Western States if they adopted Appendix J, and many local officials, who had not participated in the exchange of science during California’s state code process, and the fast tracked discussion for adopting Appendix J, refused to adopt it. It was eventually changed to Appendix G, some say to confuse people between California’s Appendix G and IAPMO’s Appendix G.
Note that this is a scant 3.5 years after Larry's first letter to the SB County board of supervisors. The advocates for this state law acknowledge that its immediate value has been nearly destroyed by anti-greywater zealots at certain cities and counties during the ensuing years, but it opened the door to the greywater regulation revolution that will pick up steam later in Arizona.
In January 1995, ReWater Systems, Inc. sponsored Assembly Bill 313 (AB313, MacDonald, Bakersfield) to revise the state’s Appendix G to allow multi-family, commercial, and institutional greywater irrigation systems, as well as to allow protected connections to fresh water supplies for cleaning filters and supplemental irrigation. The same large group of stakeholders that wre involved with AB3518 and more were involved in that 2-year code-writing process.
On March 18, 1997, CA state code revised to allow multi-family, commercial, and institutional greywater irrigation systems, as well as to allow protected connections to fresh water supplies for cleaning filters and supplemental irrigation, and clean up some of the other difficult provisions. , still called Appendix G, was published and became available for use everywhere in California. Despite an effort by former IAPMO Director of Standards, Fady Mattar, then a Commissioner on the CBSC, to administratively delete the changes referencing fresh water connections, this California code remains unchanged.
The code version produced by DWR titled “Appendix G-A” is simply the version used by DWR. It is the same code as that used by the public.
January 16, 2001— Arizona addresses the dismal compliance rate issue by issuing one blanket permit for every greywater system in the state that meets a short list of reasonable requirements. Greywater regulation revolution! Opening the door wide that CA has cracked but only enough at that a few dozen permits are issued in ten years,
March 11th 2003— New Mexico adopts AZ style code. Greywater regulation revolution continues...
????, Greywater regulation revolution continues...Texas adopts Arizona-style code.
2007— CPC mistakenly incorporates an old version of the code into the body of the CPC as Chapter 16, thus administratively setting back permitting clarity a decade. The CBSC discovers this error and issues the correction as a canary colored “Errata” to be included in future code mailings or by request to the CBSC. The adoption matrix in the front of the CPC clearly shows that chapter 16 is not adopted and Appendix G is. Whew! What a mess. This is effective Jan1. 2008 ---probably until Jan 1. 2011.
April 27, 2007—Montana follows the civilized world in definition of greywater: Montana's greywater law HB 259 follows the European Union and Australian definition of greywater, which includes kitchen sink water.
July 2, 2008— CA Senate Bill 1258 directs the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop a more wide-ranging set of standards for residential graywater systems for both indoor and outdoor uses. After another extensive debate on the science, these new standards will then be recommended to the California Building Standards Commission for adoption. This is a chance for California to catch up with the revolution it has started. Authority over non-residential greywater systems stays with CA DWR, which will probably stick with appendix G, as they have no funding for changes. Jan 1, 2011 (projected) In California the new HCD code (whatever it is) will take effect for residential, and DWR code (whatever it is) for commercial.
Early 2009— Nevada submits bill for AZ style code (in process). Greywater regulation revolution continues...
*More mind-numbing detail.....
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