Encinitas passes graywater ordinance

New single-family homes in Encinitas will be required to have special plumbing so that homeowners can connect a graywater system to reuse household water for landscaping.

The Encinitas City Council on July 15 voted unanimously to adopt a graywater ordinance, a move meant to boost conservation and cut down on water bills. Graywater systems pipe graywater from showers, bathroom sinks and washing machines to yards and gardens.

Councilman Tony Kranz said he was interested in graywater when he remodeled his home 15 years ago, but his architect told him it wasn’t allowed in Encinitas.

“It has been an important issue for me, and I really appreciate getting to this point,” Kranz said.

In recent years, graywater systems have gained favor across California due to a punishing drought.

Building codes have caught up, too. The state’s plumbing code was revised in 2009 to let homeowners build some graywater systems without permits.

While new single-family homes will be outfitted for graywater systems, it will be up to homeowners to decide whether to buy and install them. And new homes would be exempt from pre-plumbing if a test shows the soil can’t accommodate a graywater system’s discharge.

Also, the ordinance won’t require a permit for washing machine graywater systems that discharge 250 gallons a day or less. Currently, a permit for a graywater system without an electrical pump runs about $300, and the cost is roughly $500 for a system with an electrical pump.

The council also directed city staff to bring back a report on how the city can incentivize graywater in existing homes with rebates, lower permit costs and less red tape. One option is to pursue state Proposition 1 water conservation funds to lower installation costs.

Initially, the council expressed an interest in holding off on the ordinance, in case the report persuades the council to make other reforms. But Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said given the urgency of the drought, the council should move forward with the ordinance for now, and then consider the report.

It’s estimated the ordinance will add $300 to construction costs per single family home. Those who decide to retrofit their existing homes for graywater face a much steeper cost, according to the staff report.

The average person uses 40 gallons of graywater per day that could be recycled, said public speaker Steve Bilson. He founded ReWater, a company that installs graywater infrastructure.

In other news, the council also approved an ordinance that streamlines the installation of rooftop solar panels, as required under California’s AB 2188.

The city’s ordinance includes a simplified checklist that will smooth the permitting process, among other changes, according to the staff report.

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