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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Desert Rain Almost Deserts Oregon Graywater

Against all odds, and after six years of planning, permitting, and construction, the Desert Rain House constructed in Bend, Oregon achieved the Living Building Challenge Certification, the first residential project to be certified. If one is not familiar with the Living Building Challenge, there are seven “petals” that must be complied with, including a “place” petal. According to Treehugger, the "Water Petal is perhaps the most challenging and the most troubling".

Semantics mean everything,
and naming this tank meant
the difference between a
permit or no permit.
The builders maintained a blog on the project for those living building wonks that desire all of the gory details. In the posting Leading the Way to ‘YES’ – Permits and Policy, the trials and tribulations of working through the Oregon Graywater Permit situation "Desert Rain is one of the most innovative graywater projects to apply for a permit utilizing a primary, pre-treatment tank, then processing the graywater through the on site constructed wetland, into a 1,000 gallon holding tank, then pumping to a 5,000 gallon storage tank to be distributed for irrigation use. Due to the graywater being stored, Desert Rain had to apply for a Class II permit.  The Class II permit process is more involved requiring a system description and maintenance and operation guidelines."

After months of design, submittals, re-design, and re-submittals, the graywater system finally received approval. 

According to the International Living Future Institute, Desert Rain’s greywater system consists of four principal elements:

  • Primary tank for trapping solids and oils
  • Subsurface constructed wetland for secondary treatment of suspended solids and organic material
  • Storage for treated greywater
  • Irrigation system for treated greywater reuse

Desert Rain’s greywater treatment system was designed with the intent that it could be used in the future to treat not only the greywater, but all of the “wastewater” generated by the residence. The primary tank and constructed wetland are designed and sized to meet DEQ specifications for onsite wastewater treatment for three dwelling units – which is how DEQ classifies Desert Rain’s detached guest apartments. When the local sewer code is amended to allow onsite treatment and reuse of wastewater – including blackwater – Desert Rain’s constructed wetland system will be capable of treating (to reuse standards) the full wastewater from three residences. 

Recalling my experience with a Tier I permit, I felt their pain first hand. It has been over five years since the Oregon graywater guidelines were developed by a statewide advisory committee, so they are probably overdue for review given the experience of the 20 to 25 permits issued statewide to date.
* * * 
"The backbone of any improvement of governance, its development as well as its protection from any form of wastage or excessiveness, is a mechanism to place laws under the microscope of revision and modernization until they resonate in tune with the methodological development and new administrative technologies."
~Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates 

1 comment:

  1. very interesting information.nice one todd.expect more like this.