State Seeks Rules To Keep Drinking Water Out Of Toilets
In late June, Oregon state building code regulators will consider 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.
The new rules, proposed by the State Building Codes Division to the Oregon State Plumbing Board, would help ease concerns from conservationists and policy makers about using treated drinking water to flush toilets.
“Dealing with building code barriers is a huge challenge to (water) conservation,” Tom Osdoba, economic development manager for the Portland Office of Sustainability, told Portland’s Daily Journal of Commerce. “We have to figure out how to get out of the way of innovation.”
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 non-potable water, which isn’t suitable for drinking and may contain microbes or harmful chemicals.
Many admit that some issues need to be worked out. However, standard reuse systems contain their own filtering and treatment systems. In addition, further measures could be taken to ensure public health standards are maintained, such as color-coding greywater pipes.
Ron Murray, a lobbyist with Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 290, told the Daily Journal of Commerce that the fix is fairly simple, but it must be mandated and incorporated into licensing and training. “The big concern about non-potable water sources is an untrained person would cut a T into a non-potable line and make people sick,” Murray said. “That’s called a cross connection, and we take that very seriously.”
The codes and building agency would also need to clear a path to determine the level of treatment required on household water before it can be used; BCD will need to go to the state legislature. The uniform plumbing code, which serves as the basis for state building codes, already contains standards for reuse of greywater. However greywater is regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon, so the legislature must grant BCD jurisdiction over the issue before the agency can change the commercial code.
“If the BCD proposal succeeds in the legislature, Oregon would join Arizona and New Mexico as the only states to adopt standards for reuse of greywater,” the Daily Journal of Commerce reports. “If approved, homeowners in Oregon could install systems for reuse of greywater as early as July.”