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

Friday, April 23, 2010

AWWA White Paper on Graywater

The American Water Works Association, in concert with the Water Environment Federation and the Water Reuse Association, recently released the "White Paper on Graywater".  From the first two paragraphs of the Executive Summary:
  • "Graywater reuse is viewed by the green-leaning layperson as the panacea for water shortages, groundwater depletion, surface water contamination, and climate change"; and
  • "Graywater is seen by society's public health guardians (including the water utilities) as a threat to health and safety of the users themselves and their neighbors". 
It sounds like the AWWA has been recording the deliberations of the Oregon Graywater Advisory Committee over the past few months.

However, the white paper goes on to say that "Neither of these caricatures of graywater is accurate, although an element of truth resides in each".

This paper is relatively short, but covers it all from what individual states are doing (including a summary of the North Carolina and Florida programs - who knew?  Apparently like Wisconsin, very few residents given the complexity of the written rules) to the best summaries on risk associated with greywater I have seen to date.  What about risk? Not much can be said because the topic has not received much attention from researchers according to this paper.

Fertile ground for additional research as described in the paper includes:

  • A national database of actual use of graywater systems, including variations of penetration of graywater systems in communities correlated with their demographic characteristics.
  • Impacts of graywater use on water supply and wastewater management utilities in several selected communities.
  • Public attitudes toward graywater, distinct from and contrasted with public attitudes toward recycled water.
  • Quantitative risk assessment of various types of graywater reuse and comparative risk evaluation of graywater and several types of reclaimed water as used for different purposes.

There is also a focus on applying the real world to water planning that is described by former World Bank water expert and current Harvard professor John Briscoe (discussed in previous postings) where there is an emphasis on partnerships between "practitioners-who-think and researchers-who-understand-practice" and to "engage with the progressive private sector which is likely to be the source of much innovation in the water domain".  The Greywater Guru, Art Ludwig, is frequently referenced in the white paper despite his lack of high falutin' academic creds and "peer-review" on his work in greywater.

Thanks to Tom Penpraze of the City of Corvallis for bringing this important paper to my attention.

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