Calif. bill would create standards for nonresidential graywater systems

BY BRIAN WASAG
Special to CONTRACTOR

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — State lawmakers here are considering a recently revised senate bill that would give the California Building Standards Commission authority to adopt building standards for nonresidential graywater systems.

Senate Bill 518 would require the Building Standards Commission — as a part of the next triennial edition of the California Building Standards Code adopted after Jan. 1, 2011 — to craft building standards for the construction, installation and alteration of graywater systems for indoor and outdoor uses in nonresidential occupancies.

The amended bill also would take the authority to adopt such standards away from the state’s Department of Water Resources — a move supported by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California.

Harry Moos, PHCC of California’s executive vice president, said the Building Standards Commission should have the authority to develop building standards for indoor and outdoor graywater use in nonresidential occupancies.

“The Department of Water Resources can barely do their own job, so we finally talked them into letting the Building Standards Commission have control over that,” said Moos, who also is on the Building Standards Commission’s advisory board.

Moos outlined the association’s support of the revised legislation in a letter to California state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the bill’s sponsor.

In the letter, Moos said SB 518 is very similar to previous legislation that directed the California Department of Housing and Community Development to create graywater standards for residential occupancies.

Moos added that the adoption of building standards for indoor and outdoor uses in nonresidential occupancies would complement the prior legislation.

“As the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Building Standards Commission move forward with the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen), it will be very important for the industry to have access to uniform standards of compliance,” Moos wrote in the letter. “SB 518 will provide the industry with an alternative method of reducing water consumption in nonresidential buildings, thus providing the industry with increased design flexibility in meeting the mandatory provisions of CALGreen.”

The revised legislation gives the Building Standards Commission the authority to do the following:
• Ensure protection of water quality in accordance with applicable provisions of state and federal water quality law.
• Consider the adopted building standards for the construction, installation and alteration of graywater systems for indoor and outdoor uses in residential buildings.
• Consider existing research available on the environmental consequences to soil and groundwater of short-term and long-term graywater use for irrigation purposes, including, but not limited to, research sponsored by the Water Environment Research Foundation.
• Consider graywater use impacts on human health.
• Consider the circumstances under which the use of graywater treatment systems in nonresidential occupancies is recommended.
• Consider the use and regulation of graywater in other jurisdictions within the United States and in other nations.

According to Moos, once the building standards are in place, there should be additional work for contractors looking to install graywater systems.

“What we’re seeing now is that homebuilders in January are going to start plumbing their houses for graywater, and then the homeowner can add the equipment to clean it up,” Moos said. “Graywater use in California is a big issue, and it’s a way we can really save millions of gallons of water. California water is gold. It’s the most precious thing we have.”

The California State Assembly amended SB 518 on May 19, and members of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute are still forming an opinion on the legislation, according to Barbara Higgens, PMI’s executive director.

“This is brand new, and we’re just now starting to inform our members,” Higgens said. “We’re going to vet it, and then we’ll figure out what our position is.”

Brian Wasag is a Chicago-based freelance writer. He can be reached at 312/532-3744 or at [email protected]