Greening Hollywood: Green Graywater Gardens

Why this matters?

More than half of all carbon emissions, those nasty greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, are from buildings. Buildings built to California’s current codes are sucking the groundwater out from under California. Under the new codes, graywater permits would allow people to – legally – redirect their laundry water runoff to irrigate their backyard organic vegetable gardens, for example.

Watch the YouTube Instructional video here:
Abundance In Balance by Devin Slavin

And Art Ludwig’s video here:


Art Ludwig periodically holds City of Santa Barbara-sponsored workshops on engineering Laundry to Landscape systems, for free. Santa Barbara started the graywater regulation revolution in 1989.

On California’s graywater revolution, Ludwig’s office, Oasis Design, said, “The commissioners are to be congratulated for their leadership. It is always more work to set up a new system than to fit into an existing one. It would have been a lot easier to stand aside as legal buildings continue to waste resources and pollute the environment. However, in the face of deeply entrenched, powerful opposition, the commission [California Building Standards Commission] is rising to the challenge of revising all of California’s building codes to allow/require better building systems.”

In the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 24, California Plumbing Code, Part 5, Appendix G where you can find the existing graywater standards, you will see that they are antiquated. The revised standards allow for the installation of graywater systems for the purpose of water conservation. The intent is to encourage new ideas and technology related to water reuse.

The disputed point, at present, seems to be whether these state-level revisions now supersede local and municipal regulations. For example, must someone in Culver City wishing to implement a graywater system for their newly constructed building comply with the City’s code if it departs from the newer California state code?

Water activists such as Conner Everts of Environment Now says that the California State code now has precedence. Wesley Roe of Oasis Design confers. However, Jennifer Sweeney, Communications Director for the California Department of Housing and Community Development, says,

“The code provides guidance to inform the user about minimum health and safety requirements and then allows a system to be designed…at a scale that is appropriate…This can range from the simplest of low technology (a drain to a mulch basin) to the most complex…system.

Typically, small systems are very simple and adding the cost of building permits and professional design/engineering quickly becomes too expensive and burdensome to be practical. This problem has been addressed in the new graywater regulations by not requiring a construction permit for the installation of a clothes washer or single fixture system.

Homeowners would still have to check with their local authority to be sure graywater systems are allowed in their jurisdiction, therefore these regulations do not supersede any local code. Additionally, the systems would still have to be built to the requirements specified in the state Building Code. More complex systems will still require a construction permit and any system will still be regulated.”

At the August 28th Greening Hollywood presents “Water Messaging in Media” dinner at the Dorothy Green Home in Westwood, California, these issues and the topic of how to present complex issues of water to the states’ stakeholders, i.e., every California resident and business owner, were discussed.

Co-host Conner Everts of Environment Now, a longtime water activist and friend of the Green family, focused the dinner table discussion on the peripheral dam issue. He cited Timothy F. Brick’s recent editorial HERE in the L.A. Times Op-Ed section as a position he takes issue with.

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