Thursday, 05 April 2012 08:34

Update on the California Residential and Commercial Graywater Code Rewrite

Update on the California Residential and Commercial Graywater Code Rewrite
Here is the long delayed update on the State of California's residential and commercial graywater code. The new code is to become California State Plumbing Code Chapter 16, being rewritten to to replace the 2009 Chapter 16, Part A code.

This code is being developed by the State of California's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in coordination with the Building Standards Commission (BSC).

In early March, HCD received over 400 emails and letters asking for a progressive approach to the gray water code rewrite. (Thanks everyone for participating - it really made a difference.)  This was followed by a public focus group on March 7, 2012 (which I was unable to attend due to being at a conference in LA). The issue at hand was that rewritten code, Chapter 16, was more restrictive in nature, in large part due to the amorphous language that allowed too much to be determined by local authorities.  In the case of gray water, staff of water agencies and municipalities, whether building inspectors or public health officials or the managers of water conservation and stormwater management programs, are often not sufficiently in-the-know about graywater to make decisions for which they are responsible, and therefore can tend towards takiong a more conservative stance, understandably so. This is often an issue of staff's capacity to engage in new information as opposed to willingness. There were also issues related to concerns over potential cross connections/graywater back flow as well as to the conflation of how to handle graywater for irrigation as opposed to graywater for disposal.

At that meeting, it was made public that there has been a change in the most recent printing of the 2012 Uniform Plumbing Code.  The rainwater provisions, previously located in Chapter 16, have been moved to Chapter 17.  Rainwater had been added to Chapter 16 along with the residential and commercial graywater code. The intention was to have a variety of forms of water reuse all under the same chapter, but was obvious that this was not the most useful approach at this time. Rainwater harvesting will now be chapter 17 of the plumbing code, and the allowance for unpermitted tanks has been raised from 250 gallons to 5000, as per the CA building code.

The next steps, as I understand them, are:
*  HCD is currently making another pass at writing Chapter 16, considering comments from municipalities, water agencies, nonprofits, business owners and individuals.  This new version should be completed this week.
*  This new version will be passed to BSC.
*  BSC will finalize a new draft and with HCD,  and send it out again for a 45 day comment period.
*  HCD will incorporate new comments as it sees fit.
*  If there are major changes, they will send it out for another 45 day comment period.  If there are only minor changes, the comment period will be 15 days.
*  The gray water code is slightly out of step with the general BSC code process, based on the need for reworking the code at HCD first.

Detailed comments on code from Laura Allen, Director of Greywater Action

If anyone else would like to post their comments on the code, please do.  I have posted this update on Wholly H2O and you can leave comments there.

To learn more about safe and legal gray water use, please visit:

If you would like to be a part of the process, here are the contacts for this code process.
Division of Codes and Standards
Department of Housing and Community Development,
Doug Hensel, Assistant Deputy Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
(916) 445-9471

Building Standards Commission
Enrique Rodriguez, Associate Construction Analyst
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
(916) 263-0916

Now turn down the flow on your faucet.  The strawberries you are rinsing (grown in CA, I hope!) aren't THAT dirty!
Last modified on Thursday, 19 April 2012 11:37
Elizabeth Dougherty

Elizabeth Dougherty

Elizabeth Dougherty, founder and director of Wholly H2O, is determined to make innovative approaches to water sustainability all the rage in California.


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