By Paige Donner
Dawn of A New Era
A revolution occurred in California on August 4th led by Santa Barbara-based graywater advocate, Art Ludwig, and an army of passionate stakeholders from throughout the state. The revolution was the historic graywater code adoption that took place in Sacramento at the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
Graywater is the wastewater that drains out of washing machines, sinks, bathtubs and showers. It can be treated for indoor use and may be used untreated in some landscape applications.
SB 1258 required HCD, in consultation with the Department of Public Health, to develop standards for the construction, installation and alteration of graywater systems for indoor and outdoor uses.
As of August 4th, 2009, “Californians can legally install simple laundry and single fixture systems without a permit. For the first time, licensed professionals can legally help with the 1.7 million existing graywater systems in the state.”
-Art Ludwig, graywater Researcher and Educator
Ideas Presented at The “Water Messaging In Media” Dinner
“Water Messaging In Media” Dinner presented by
Greening Hollywood and Environment Now
at the Dorothy Green Home in Westwood
Paige Donner, Josh Green
Typically, a three-bedroom home generates 160 gallons of graywater per day or 58,400 gallons per year. With the new standards, a family of four could potentially divert nearly 22,000 gallons of water per year by using graywater from the laundry system alone. Great news for water conservation advocates.
The all-day Sacramento hearing was described as “a rollercoaster” where “passionate stakeholders” spoke for and against the adoption of the new standards and where a “collision of world views” was on full display as the meeting drew to its “historic” conclusion.
Another historic outcome from the meeting is that the HCD, who has asked the California Building Standards Commission (www.bsc.ca.gov) to revise California’s Green Building Standards, shifted – significantly – to taking into account off-site and future impacts of a building’s systems as opposed to only considering occupant safety.
Why this matters?
More than half of all carbon emissions, those nasty greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, are from buildings. Buildings built to California’s current codes are sucking the groundwater out from under California. Under the new codes, graywater permits would allow people to – legally – redirect their laundry water runoff to irrigate their backyard organic vegetable gardens, for example.
Watch the YouTube Instructional video here:
And Art Ludwig’s video here:
Art Ludwig periodically holds City of Santa Barbara-sponsored workshops on engineering Laundry to Landscape systems, for free. Santa Barbara started the graywater regulation revolution in 1989.
On California’s graywater revolution, Ludwig’s office, Oasis Design, said, “The commissioners are to be congratulated for their leadership. It is always more work to set up a new system than to fit into an existing one. It would have been a lot easier to stand aside as legal buildings continue to waste resources and pollute the environment. However, in the face of deeply entrenched, powerful opposition, the commission [California Building Standards Commission] is rising to the challenge of revising all of California’s building codes to allow/require better building systems.”
In the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 24, California Plumbing Code, Part 5, Appendix G where you can find the existing graywater standards, you will see that they are antiquated. The revised standards allow for the installation of graywater systems for the purpose of water conservation. The intent is to encourage new ideas and technology related to water reuse.
The disputed point, at present, seems to be whether these state-level revisions now supersede local and municipal regulations. For example, must someone in Culver City wishing to implement a graywater system for their newly constructed building comply with the City’s code if it departs from the newer California state code?
Water activists such as Conner Everts of Environment Now says that the California State code now has precedence. Wesley Roe of Oasis Design confers. However, Jennifer Sweeney, Communications Director for the California Department of Housing and Community Development, says,
“The code provides guidance to inform the user about minimum health and safety requirements and then allows a system to be designed…at a scale that is appropriate…This can range from the simplest of low technology (a drain to a mulch basin) to the most complex…system.
Typically, small systems are very simple and adding the cost of building permits and professional design/engineering quickly becomes too expensive and burdensome to be practical. This problem has been addressed in the new graywater regulations by not requiring a construction permit for the installation of a clothes washer or single fixture system.
Homeowners would still have to check with their local authority to be sure graywater systems are allowed in their jurisdiction, therefore these regulations do not supersede any local code. Additionally, the systems would still have to be built to the requirements specified in the state Building Code. More complex systems will still require a construction permit and any system will still be regulated.”
At the August 28th Greening Hollywood presents “Water Messaging in Media” dinner at the Dorothy Green Home in Westwood, California, these issues and the topic of how to present complex issues of water to the states’ stakeholders, i.e., every California resident and business owner, were discussed.
Co-host Conner Everts of Environment Now, a longtime water activist and friend of the Green family, focused the dinner table discussion on the peripheral dam issue. He cited Timothy F. Brick’s recent editorial HERE in the L.A. Times Op-Ed section as a position he takes issue with.
Water H20 3G
Since many of the dinner attendees, including Stephanie Molen from Sen. Pavley’s office, Frances Anderton, Producer of Warren Olney’s To The Point on NPR, and Catherine Geanuracos of LiveEarth have extensive experience in presenting information in digestible form to large audiences, we steered the conversation toward Water Messaging in Media and the question of which issues to focus on right now.
Susan Munves, Santa Monica Green Building
Water Conservation and Clean Water were two topics at the fore. One of the dinner guests, perhaps it was Edward Headington who counts Breathe L.A., hosts of the Green Salon Series, as one of his clients, or maybe it was Josh Green, the late Dorothy Green’s son, or maybe it was Susan Munves from the city of Santa Monica Green Buildings Program – or, likely it was all three – who said we need to keep the message short, sweet and simple. The message needs to be represented by a one-punch image that will resonate with the Facebook crowd. Something like Water “H203G.” Stay tuned…
Dinner was generously provided by Chef Simon Dolinky of Palomar’s Blvd. 16 who runs a kitchen stocked fully with organic and sustainably farmed ingredients. His platters of roast pork smothered in fresh roasted vegetables and his seafood platter of fresh shrimp, mussels and chubby scallops were all heaven-sent.
Jen Mullen of Jam Gourmet provided us with a fig and gorgonzola pizza – wonderful combination of savory and sweet – and a romaine salad with paper thin-sliced crisp peaches, red onions, pine nuts and feta. Mendocino Farms, the fully sustainable downtown eatery who is opening up their second location in L.A. on 5th and Flower, provided us with Chef Judy’s Seasonal Farmer’s Market Salad with Arnett Farms Fuji apples, parmesan cheese and honey roasted almonds on organic farmer’s market greens with a sherry vinaigrette.
The Green Family’s Otelia, who was first brought into the family 41 years ago by Dorothy, helped with the fluidity of the dinner. Indeed, it appeared that she was delighted by the home being used, once again, as a hub of activity for the water tribe.
Water…for the Next Generation…