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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hammer vs. Scalpel

Attorney Nathan Bracken of the Western States Water Council described the Hammer vs. Scalpel approach to dealing with *exempt wells* at the exempt well conference held in Walla Walla, WA in mid May. What he discovered through years of research on exempt wells across the western US is that a *local* approach to managing *things* like exempt wells made more sense and was more effective if they were handled locally as opposed to trying to invoke a statewide approach. The conference also heard from a county planners or county commissioners from western US states (and western Canadian provinces) about their local efforts at working with exempt wells. Some results were good, some have become bad (as in the case of Jefferson County, CO), and some have become downright ugly.

What is the connection to greywater you ask?

Some states have invoked the *hammer* approach to greywater, tacitly assuming that by developing prescriptive rules and regulations, along with permits and associated fees, greywater reuse will work across the entire state. Good early examples of this strategy include Wisconsin, where in this posting it describes that few residents were participating in the greywater reuse program because the rules were too rigid, eventually leading to the fabled *Wisconsin rewrite*. Oregon is another example, where the proposed rules and regulations are reasonable, but the reasonableness of the permit and annual $50 fee per system remains debatable.

Then there are the *scalpel* approaches, such as what is now occurring in Marin County, CA. In a stunning reversal of policy, this article in the Marin Independent Journal and editorial outline the recent revisions to the greywater reuse rules - no permit and no fees - for simple greywater systems. Just a notification form is all that is needed to start the happy practice of greywater reuse.

The reasoning behind the change?....*the county has only a "handful" of graywater permits on file.* and *The goal is to remove the cost and bureaucratic hassle of the county permit process. Households that install gray water system need only file a statement of notification*.

Sounds similar to the *cowboy* way in Wyoming and Oklahoma.

Greywater governance does not need to use the *hammer*. The Marin County approach of reducing helicopter government is consistent with the Tennessee and Minnesota way of local jurisdictions deciding how greywater should be reused and at what cost to the customer who already paid for the water when it was *used* once.

* * *
If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. 
~ American Psychologist Abraham Maslow 

1 comment:

  1. That very interesting and such reliable topic. I know now that there are some aspects we can't deal with.