Graywater Codes and Regulations

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Graywater laws in the US vary greatly from state to state. According to the new State Plumbing Code, California doesn’t require permits for laundry systems that don’t alter household plumbing (often referred to as “laundry to landscape” systems), but does require them for other types of systems in which plumbing must be altered, such as graywater from showers, tubs, and bathroom sinks.

graywater-intro-15For new construction and remodels requiring permits, people usually work with their local building department to obtain a graywater permit, or install a graywater stubout to which a future graywater system can be connected after the final inspection. Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico do not require permits for residential graywater, as long as health and safety guidelines are followed.


Specific California Requirements for Graywater Systems

Extracted from the 2010 California Plumbing Code (Title 24, part 5, Chapter 16A, Part 1)

A graywater system, utilizing only a single domestic clothes washing machine in a one-or-two family dwelling, in compliance with all of the following, may be installed or altered without a construction permit:

  1. If required, notification has been provided to the Enforcing Agency regarding the proposed location and installation of a graywater irrigation or disposal system.
  2. The design shall allow the user to direct the flow to irrigation or disposal field or the building sewer. The direction control of the graywater shall be clearly labeled and readily accessible to the user.
  3. The installation, change, alteration or repair of the system does not include a potable water connection or a pump and does not affect other building, plumbing, electrical or mechanical components including structural features, egress, fire-life safety, sanitation, potable water supply piping or accessibility.
  4. The graywater shall be contained on the site where it is generated.
  5. Graywater shall be directed to and contained within an irrigation or disposal field.
  6. Ponding or runoff is prohibited and shall be considered a nuisance.
  7. Graywater may be released above the ground surface provided at least two (2) inches of mulch, rock, or soil, or a solid shield covers the release point. Other methods which provide equivalent separation are also acceptable.
  8. Graywater systems shall be designed to minimize contact with humans and domestic pets.
  9. Water used to wash diapers or similarly soiled or infectious garments shall not be used and shall be diverted to the building sewer.
  10. Graywater shall not contain hazardous chemicals derived from activities such as cleaning car parts, washing greasy or oily rags, or disposing of waste solutions from home photo labs or similar hobbyist or home occupational activities.
  11. Exemption from construction permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any graywater system to be installed in a manner that violates other provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of the Enforcing Agency.
  12. An operation and maintenance manual shall be provided. Directions shall indicate the manual is to remain with the building throughout the life of the system and indicate that upon change of ownership or occupancy, the new owner or tenant shall be notified the structure contains a graywater system.