BY DAN UNDERHILL
(originally posted February 15, 2009 just before the State of California adopted a gray-water code; edited and reposted March 2, 2014 in the midst of one of California's worst droughts)
GREYWATER ACTION (Editor's Note: Riptide follows American spelling—gray; the British spell it grey.)
We have an opportunity to save rivers, fisheries, money, and perhaps the planet, keeping it habitable for future generations. My plumbing customers may have heard this rant already and may want to skip ahead to the forwarded message below. For the rest of you, my rant goes like this:
Advances in plumbing codes have been at least as effective as advances in medicine in promoting human health and longevity—possibly even more so. One aspect of the codes instrumental in curtailing or eradicating many waterborne and airborne diseases is the requirement that water be used only once before being sent to sewage treatment. The problem with this blanket approach is that it needlessly wastes precious potable water.
We have remained blissfully ignorant of the costs of our wastefulness to the environment for a long time, but that is changing rapidly. Did you know that the United States is the last Pacific Rim nation to use potable water to flush toilets?
The consequences of our wastefulness are immense and growing. It is not surprising that arid southwestern states such as Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas have pioneered gray-water legislation. These states have gray-water plumbing codes aimed at safely reusing some of the water from laundries, bathtubs, showers, and washbasins without reintroducing any of the health hazards that the current Uniform Plumbing Code and National Plumbing Codes control. Many progressive environmentalists already use gray water, at odds with applicable state and local codes.
(As a plumbing contractor, I can now design systems easily convertible to gray water now that California has adopted a gray-water code. As a friend, I often offer advice or recommend books on gray water to my customers.)
GREYWATER ACTION is an excellent information source. It is essential to do gray-water systems correctly to avoid reintroducing waterborne and airborne diseases. It is very important that all communities, even if not now in water shortage, drought, or water rationing, adopt some form of gray-water code, as the State of California already has done.
(Dan B. Underhill, California Plumbing License Number 552716, is a member but not a spokesman for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials [IAPMO], cheerleader for Greywater Action. Dan is a founding member and longtime supporter of Pacifica Riptide.)