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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Colorado Soon to Approve Graywater Use

A bill to allow Colorado property owners the right to utilize ‘graywater’ has been sent to Govenor Hickenlooper for his signature.  The use of graywater will protect Colorado’s vital water resources, help property owners and municipalities cut costs, and aid property owners in green building certification.
Graywater generally refers to water that is drained from lavatories (bathroom sinks), baths, showers, washing machines, and sinks.  Water drained from kitchen sinks, water closets (toilets), urinals, and dishwashers is generally called ‘blackwater’.
Graywater can be used flushing toilets and urinals and for certain types of irrigation. Primarily graywater is used for subsurface watering of trees and plants.
In House Bill 13‑1044, the legislature has defined graywater as discharge from bathroom and laundry room sinks, bathtubs, showers, laundry machines, and other sources that may be authorized by rule.  The legislature has determined that the wastewater from toilets, urinals, kitchen sinks, dishwashers, and non-laundry utility sinks is not graywater.  HB 13‑1044.
A primary savings from the use of graywater is lower water use.  Water currently used for irrigation is fresh/treated, water bought and paid for from a municipal water system.  Such water can be prohibitively expensive for users where municipalities have invoked drought condition progressive pricing.  A property owner can save money on his bill by reusing water that he has already paid for.
Graywater can also save municipalities money.  Water discharged from a home or commercial building must be treated before returning it to use.  Graywater used for irrigation rather than sent to a treatment plant can reduce municipal costs.  Municipalities may be able to postpone or avoid the building of new treatment plants thanks to reduced treatment needs.
Graywater can be used for flushing toilets and for irrigation.  However, graywater is not generally usable directly from the fixture.  It must be collected and treated.
Graywater collection will require a separate plumbing system in a home or commercial building.  Normally, all wastewater, regardless of its origin, is discharged through a single piping system. A separate system of piping and holding tanks will be required.
You’ll need settling and filtering systems.  The complexity and cost of your pumping and piping system will depend on the size and configuration or your building and your planned uses for gratwater.
Green Building Certification
Graywater use is approved by LEED for obtaining certification as a green building.
LEED certification is based on a point system for constructing and operating buildings in an environmentally friendly manner.  Points can be awarded for the up-front reduction in water use and for the reduction in water treatment.
Legislation is Necessary for Graywater
Water in Colorado is appropriated on a first-come first-served basis.  All of the water in Colorado streams and rivers is already owned by someone, including a provision for water staying in the river for fish and plant life.  If you want to use water for some new purpose, you have to buy a right to the water from a current owner of water rights.
For example, if a ski resort wants water for snowmaking, it cannot just pump water from a river and use it.  The resort must buy a right to that water from a farmer or other water right owner.
Water appropriations are based on net water use.  An appropriation includes not only taking water from, but also return of water to the system.  A building owner’s water use can be calculated by subtracting the amount of water he sends to a treatment plant from the fresh water taken into his building.  Thus, reusing water would lessen the owner’s return water flow, increasing his net water use and possibly exceeding his appropriation.
The Colorado Legislature has made certain declarations to allow property owners to reuse water: 
  • that graywater use is essential to the future of the State;
  • that property owners using graywater do not violate another’s water rights, subject to municipal policies that may require augmentation of the owner’s water return obligations;
  • that properly treated graywater does not cause harm; and
  • graywater is not to be considered ‘reuse’ as defined under Colorado’s water law.
Congratulations to the Colorado legislature for taking this important step to conserve our natural resources.