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Water use flows into ‘gray’ area

Posted: August 21, 2009 8:46 p.m.
Updated: August 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.

While a controversial method for recycling water was approved this month for use by Californians, Santa Clarita Valley water officials said Friday they’re concerned the graywater could hurt local groundwater supplies.

“We want to make sure whatever is implemented isn’t detrimental to our groundwater supply,” Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, said of re-using graywater — untreated waste water from homes.

“Unlike industrial water recycling, this is done in people’s homes,” he said. “The water is not treated or disinfected.”

The state Building Standards Commission approved the use of graywater beginning this month.

Graywater advocates tout the practice as a way to save money, water and the environment.

“You can save money and fresh water, and it encourages the use of healthy products like ecologically friendly soaps,” said Laura Allen, co-founder of the Greywater Guerillas water conservation advocacy group.

The easing of restrictions on graywater is more than a year in the making, Allen said.

California lawmakers passed a law in 2008 that cleared the way for legalizing what many environmentalist called a logical solution for California’s water crisis.

“There were already 1.2 million illegal greywater systems operating in the state” before the practice was approved and regulated, she said.

When the topic of graywater bubbles to the surface, Masnada’s main concern is the prospect of homeowners dumping contaminant-loaded liquid into the ground.

Current graywater law does not include a permitting process, but it does set basic requirements for each system. Graywater users need to install a system that can easily be switched back to the sewer or septic connection. Water from kitchen sinks, toilets or water that has come in contact with dirty diapers or oily rags cannot be used as graywater.

Despite his concerns, Masnada acknowledged graywater’s benefits.

“The biggest benefit from graywater is that we can recycle water without building any infrastructure,” Masnada said. “The water recycling happens in the home.”



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