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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Get Ready for Greywater, Portlandia

A big week of Greywater News based on the many postings this past week. When it rains, rainbows happen.

Thanks to clever Australian, author of the greatest greywater gardening manual ever, and greywater entrepreneur Paul James at Just Water Savers USA for the news that the Draft Oregon Graywater Rules are ready for public comment. WOW, that was quick.

Paul pointed out a couple of interesting issues:  
  • "Type 1 graywater" means graywater that may have passed through primary graywater treatment, is oxidized and has not passed through secondary graywater treatment, and
  • There is a $0 application fee and a $50 annual fee for a Tier 1 style graywater system.
There is a listing of definitions in the draft rules, but *oxidized* is nowhere to be found. With all of the wastewater (blackwater) treatment facilities operators and managers on the Graywater Advisory Committee, I am certain this confusion will be quickly resolved along with the testing standards for *oxidization*.

And the $50 annual fee comes as no surprise. Recall from this posting that the Rainbow Water Coalition speculated that the fee might be somewhere around $100, and paraphrasing:

Let's assume for purposes of discussion a permit fee of $100. Integrating this into the potential number of homes in Oregon that might potentially become active in greywater (say 140,000) and there is $14,000,000 that is now available to administer Oregon's graywater program or some program in a budget-challenged state.  The Oregon Water Thorn saw this early in the discussion of the Oregon Graywater Advisory Committee process as one of the primary interests for the Oregon DEQ to require a permit.

Okay, so the fee for Tier 1 systems might generate $7,000,000 per year instead of the predicted $14,000,000. Not a bad haul, but what does one get for the *fee*? I guess it is like the fee I pay for my professional registration - a yearly newsletter and the warm feeling that the health and safety of the public is assured from *bad* practice, and if there is *bad* practice, the *bad* person(s) will get admonished for the practice, as long as the *bad* greywater reuse is not part of their religion or considered an expression of *free speech*, a protection afforded by the US Constitution. Sounds far-fetched, but the latter situation actually happened in Oregon in one of the professions that requires a annual licensing fee. There are other states that are not requiring fees for greywater reuse.

Returning to the issue of how long it would take to see a return on the *investment*, this posting found that greywater reuse would "...reduce water and wastewater utility costs by approximately Can$73 (US$73) annually per household..."

With the $50 annual fee, a household practicing greywater reuse might get to save less than $25 per year on their water and wastewater bill in Oregon. One can get a bottle of the better quality Oregon Pinot Noir with those savings.

So for the greywater reuse junkies out there in Portlandia, get ready to celebrate saving some water, but don't expect to see a return on your greywater reuse investment for quite awhile. And don't forget to recycle your wine bottle!  


  1. Don't know if you've seen this yet: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/01/deq_puts_oregon_on_track_to_cu.html

  2. Thanks Adam and Lockwood. The article is consistent with the posting. Still need some help with *oxidize*.

  3. Spoke to a DEQ person today re "oxidize". The intent appears to be to ensure the graywater does not go anaerobic, ie where the graywater has sat long enough to consume it's own oxygen (hence use within 24 hours). This is consistent with PR releases indicating gravity irrigation, e.g. via initial physical filtration and the use of dripperline irrigation without any other treatment is ok, and pressurized systems are similarly ok.

    The wording is poor in this area (in my opinion) and needs clarrification. Regarding the annual permit fee, while it is disappointing, I expect that for houses without an existing reticulation system, graywater will be a cheaper option for garden irrigation, so the $50 is not a huge factor (although possibly frustrating). If the DEQ uses some of the money to publicize the benefits of reuse then I don't have a major issue with it.

  4. Thanks for the update Paul. The article that Lockwood found had some interesting comments, some consistent with yours, others not so agreeable. I am confused why a yearly fee for greywater, where blackwater (septics) does not have a yearly fee. Discrimination!

    Gee, a YEARLY $50 fee permit, not just one time fee? And so the "man" getting his $$ makes it all good and sanctioned................anyone living in arid areas has mostly figured this out already, there are "how to" books all over the internet and libraries on how to do it for next to nothing. You don't need a $1000 in plumbing to figure it out. This is from the same agency that wants you to disconnect your gutters from the storm water system, while raising your rates 100%. Oregon is blessed with water and you still screw it up.

    I knew it was a bad idea to drink the water on Tatooine!

    What a mixed message! On the one hand, the government wants you con conserve water. On the other hand, they charge you $50, each year to do so! What this will do exactly the wrong thing: it will drive water conservation under ground. This will result in problems, perhaps even illness. Thanks, Oregon.

    Instead, the government should take some of its water conservation budget to do education and inspection programs, to make sure people are doing this safely.

    It's the old "carrot or stick" problem. If Oregon truly wants to conserve water, they aren't going to achieve that with a stick!

    So I have been in violation for the past 20+ years using my shower and laundry water for the lawn and garden. I guess that government wants us to wait for them to say that it is OK. What a crock, leave us alone and let us do the right thing. Every time the government tries to do something it cost us all a lot of money and for what? Paperwork? I thought that we going green and paperless? So want is the real story? Is this like red light cameras at intersections that just generate money. When does it stop with the cost!!!! Get off our backs!