In late June, Oregon state building code regulators considered passing new rules to allow homeowners to collect and use greywater - water used in sinks, showers or clothes washers - for flushing toilets. Current Oregon building codes allow homeowners to collect and reuse rainwater for these applications, but codes are murky when it comes to recycling greywater.
Greywater reuse has been avoided by many states’ codes in applications that involve human contact, such as showers and sinks, due to health concerns over the water quality. Greywater is classified as nonpotable water, which isn’t suitable for drinking and may contain microbes or harmful chemicals.
In Tucson, Ariz., a city advisory committee is pushing for all new homes to be outfitted with plumbing systems capable of delivering greywater from bathrooms, laundries and kitchens to outdoor landscaping.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the committee also wants the Tucson City Council to require developers of shopping centers and other commercial projects to harvest rainwater for at least 75 percent of what is used for trees, grass and shrubs.
The proposed ordinance, which would take effect June 2010, is likely the first of its kind in the United States. Critics cite costs and development discouragement, and the fact that the new ordinance would ignore a much larger number of existing homes.
Home sellers and buyers are scrambling to comply with the DeKalb County law that states, as of June 1, any home built before 1993 “must have low-flow toilet and plumbing fixtures installed before the new homeowner can obtain water from the county.”
According to the ordinance, new homeowners must produce written proof from a home inspector, licensed plumber or a Department of Watershed inspector.
Single-family homes and condos must meet the following standards: toilets can have a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush; showerheads can put out a max of 2.5 gallons per minute; lavatory faucets can put out a maximum of 2 gallons per minute; and kitchen faucets can put out a maximum of 2.2 gallons per minute.
The law has four exemptions. Penalties for violating the law include a warning for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense.
In other news, the council has added two new founding members - Zurn and Viega North America - and new manufacturer member Wilo USA. The group has also become an endorsing association for the 2009 AHR Expo, Jan. 26-28 in Chicago.
Homes must meet criteria in three areas: indoor water use, outdoor water use and homeowner education. Indoor plumbing, plumbing fixtures, appliances and other water-using equipment have to be water efficient. Outdoors the landscape design and any irrigation system have to be water efficient. Additionally, homeowners will be provided information on how to maintain a water-efficient home. Third-party inspectors will certify that homes meet all of the criteria before they will be given a WaterSense label.
The EPA is inviting all interested parties to provide comments until July 21, 2008. To register, comment or get more information, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/specs/homes.htm.