A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Friday, January 29, 2010

Grand Greywater Schemes

Grandblogmeister, friend and colleague Michael Campana sent me this article in the Christian Science Monitor about the "grassroots" of greywater reuse which profiles some of the work that Laura Allen of Greywater Action, aka Graywater Guerillas, at the Eco Village in Los Angeles, California.  The article does a grand job of describing how greywater reuse is taking off in California, one of the states with rules and regulations often copied by other states for their programs (but the Greywater Guru does a great job of providing some guidance as to what not to like about the California system under the sidebar and misinformation about greywater).

I am learning that Oregon does not like to be outdone by California, and so as the Graywater Advisory Committee considers the pros and cons of the California system, California is hereby put on notice that Oregon is planning a project of greywater reuse on a "grand scale".  The project is the Oregon Sustainability Center.  The plan is to build a "net-zero" water building where net-zero is defined as "an extremely water efficient building that only uses rainwater falling on-site, returning it to the water cycle responsibly after treating it to safe levels".  I have heard cost estimates for this building that will be constructed in downtown Portland to approach $100 to 200 million. They have set up a companion blog on the project that is worth a visit to see more conceptual diagrams.  Update: And then the New York Times ran this article on January 31 about a $133 million renovation of the federal building in downtown Portland, Oregon which will include greywater reuse, in part, "to cultivate 'vegetated fins' that will grow more than 200 feet high on the western facade of the main federal building".  Oregon means business when it comes to "green" buildings.

I have been asked to prepare a proposal for further research on greywater reuse for the OSC building, but am having difficulty coming up with ideas for good primary research.   On the basis of my early work with the Graywater Advisory Committee, there is a great deal of secondary research that needs to be completed given all of the excellent feedback and comments from our greywater friends, soon-to-be-new neighbors from "down under", but few research agencies like to fund such important tasks.  Here's hoping that our neighbors to the south in California come visit and help mold these grand schemes into shape.  I think Oregonians are over the Rose Bowl situation so we can now move forward on saving water as a region - just keep California wine in California.


  1. Rene Dulle - Environmental Science StudentFebruary 26, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    One of the first (if not the first) Net Zero Buildings competed in the "Living Building Challenge", where one of 16 criteria is "net zero water and sustainable water discharge". The building is located in Eureka, MO, nestled in the woods, just 20 miles west of St. Louis. It is the Washington University Tyson Research Center, otherwise known as the Living Learning Center. As one can imagine, this Center has several innovative features, and of course a gray water system. Missouri currently does not have laws regarding gray water. The University and the design team got around that and several other building code issues unique to this building by being upfront with St. Louis county. Eventually, the county agreed to review the building using "Alternate Compliance" method which used an outcome based system where the burden of proof fell onto the design team.

    Stormwater is collected and filtrated, and is clean to drink. Grey water is distributed through irrigation chambers placed high in the soil to ensure plant roots can reach and make use of nutrients. The remaining water passes downward and recharges groundwater, no filtration needed. You may ask why water is not used for toilet flushing...well, no water is used for these composting toilets. So, for those of you worried about kitchen sink gray water, you have nothing to worry about, as even your personal daily waste can be composted in a beautiful soil amendment! The link to the 29 page document detailing this great project: http://tyson.wustl.edu/news/JGB_V4N4_a00_hellmuth1.pdf

    1. I live in Jefferson county and would like to know if there is a way to set up a grey water system?

    2. Yes, you can set up a greywater system, but the trick will be to design it for freezing conditions, or not use it during the winter. Check out the Oregon Graywater Outreach page under Greywater Goodies in the right hand menu for specific requirements.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Rene. I am on the research design team for the OSC and one of the many issues I have been wrestling with is the issue of permitting, especially the drinking water system. This information is most helpful. What sets OSC apart from other buildings is the size. This will be a *skyscraper* in downtown Portland, Oregon.

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