Gray Water systems, which divert wastewater from showers, bathtubs, sinks and washing machines for yard watering, are incredibly difficult to obtain permits for in Austin. A city-organized task force is exploring ways to make the process a lot easier, Statesman.com reports.
Only one person has actually obtained a permit for a gray water system due to the incredibly complex system of building codes that have to be met to obtain one, and because it usually costs thousands of dollars. But the city would like to make it at least a little easier for homeowners to be able to install a system due to the ongoing drought. Most houses can reuse 40 gallons of water a day by using a gray water system, a huge boon at a time when lake levels can drop a foot a week during drought.
This January, Austin’s city council put together a task force of city departments to meet with a few residents who are involved in sustainability projects to see what barriers there were to putting in residential gray water systems and to come up with recommendations for how to decrease the burden. One of the group’s suggestions was that when the next plumbing code is put into place it will eliminate some of the most burdensome gray water system design requirements in the current code.
However, some representatives at Austin Water Utility are concerned that the gray water will get into the public water system and wants to add extra measures such as annual inspections and devices that prevent contamination. Unfortunately, these additional safeguards can add thousands of dollars to the cost of gray water systems. Advocates for the systems say the city doesn’t understand the health risks versus the benefits of the system.