The Cambrian

Graywater options detailed to Cambria CSD board

Cambrians have been doing an exceptional job of conserving water during the drought, according not only to representatives of the agency that provides it, but also to officials of county and state government.

In fact, records from the Cambria Community Services District show its water production was reduced by 43 percent when compared to September 2013. 

Many Cambrians have slashed their water usage by reusing some of what government agencies refer to as “graywater.”

Barry Tolle, a county planning staffer who specializes in septic systems, graywater and rain-catchment systems, and Mladen Bandov from Above Grade Engineering, told district directors and a packed house at the CSD’s Oct. 23 meeting about those systems, which range from simple and inexpensive to complex and costly.

What many in the audience seemed to soak up during Tolle’s presentation, however, was what they’re not supposed to do with their graywater, which he described as being “wastewater collected from washing machines, lavatory sinks, bathtubs and showers.” 

The “San Luis Obispo Guide to the Use of Graywater” defines graywater as “untreated household or building waste water that has not come in contact with toilet or kitchen sink waste.”

The guide cautions that graywater should not be stored, because it will quickly become foul and turn into blackwater unless treated. Blackwater, it says, includes water from kitchen sinks, dishwashers and toilets.

The 34-page how-to guide is available online. 

Dishwater from kitchen sinks is not considered reusable graywater, Tolle said, because it contains food particles and grease. Likewise, residents should not reuse water from washing machine loads that contain diapers, or water containing hazardous chemicals or cleaning solvents.

The kitchen sink admonitions may come as a surprise to some who have been hauling buckets full of dishwater to their gardens.

Graywater should not be allowed to pond, and untreated graywater cannot be used for spray irrigation or discharged into ponds, streams or storm drains. Graywater must remain on the property where it was generated.

Tolle described three types of graywater systems: a system that drains water from a clothes washer, which does not require a permit; a simple system that produces less than 250 gallons per day (gpd); and a complex system that produces more than 250 gpd. The latter two systems do require permits, which range in price from $267 to about $500.