With Marin County’s drought situation becoming more dire, household graywater recycling systems could experience a surge in popularity. That was one of the motivations when the Marin County Board of Supervisors recently adopted a resolution waiving environmental health fees for new residential graywater systems installed in the unincorporated areas of Marin.
The use of graywater recycling as an effective and sustainable strategy in conserving water resources, which is why the Environmental Health Services (EHS) Division of the Marin County Community Development Agency asked the Supervisors to temporarily waive fees for graywater system review and approval through December 1, 2021. The resolution was approved on May 18. The cost is no-charge for a simple residential “laundry to landscape” graywater system, although it remains $2,705 for a complex commercial system.
Graywater is often defined as household wastewater that does not contain serious contaminants. Most of it is generated by baths, showers, and clothes washers. Wastewater generated by toilets, kitchen sinks, and dishwashers is called blackwater.
Greg Pirie, Interim Deputy Director of EHS, said the re-use of graywater can decrease potable water use by 16% to 40% depending on the site, graywater system design, and season of the year. However, over the past year EHS has only received three simple graywater notifications and no complex or commercial permit applications.
“The effort to reduce water use and conserve the water supply is a necessity, and the assistance to waive fees in a critical time of conservation could be a motivating factor for a water-wise homeowner,” he said.
Recent changes in California law make repurposing graywater more accessible for homeowners who want to reuse graywater to conserve fresh water use. EHS is encouraging residents to install safe graywater systems in accordance with health and building practices.
Throughout Marin, laundry-to-landscape clothes washer graywater systems and simple graywater systems of 250 gallons of discharge per day are exempt from construction permits. The County only requires a notification be filed with EHS for simple graywater systems. A construction permit and plans are required for complex systems and on-site treated non-potable graywater systems. A plumbing permit from CDA’s Building and Safety Division may be required for graywater systems in which the plumbing will be altered or backflow prevention valves are needed.
MarinWater, the municipal water district that serves most of Marin, offers a $100 discount on laundry-to-landscape graywater kits for washing machines and has a graywater workshop scheduled for June 9.
The North Marin Water District (NMWD), which serves Novato and selected portions of West Marin, offers a graywater system rebate on a per-fixture basis ($75 for each line connected to a graywater system) including clothes washers, showers, and bathroom sinks.
For more information about the County’s graywater policies, check the webpage or call (415) 473-6907.