In hot water over gray water?

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To permit or not permit? That was my question when I first decided to retrofit my Highland Park bungalow with a gray water system to divert the used water from my washing machine into my xeriscaped frontyard.

In theory, such a system is permittable in the state, per Appendix G of the California Plumbing Code. But actually getting one? Good luck.

I would have had to submit extensive plans to the L.A. Department of Building and Safety, then have those plans approved by the L.A. County Department of Health Services, which explains why just 5 to 10 gray water permits are granted in L.A. County each year -- almost all of them for new construction.

To be honest, I didn’t even try to get a permit. One look at Appendix G was enough to convince me that, A: it wasn’t worth the effort because, B: it wouldn’t be approved. I pretty much knew that would be the case from all the reading I’d done on the subject and the interviews I’d had with various gray water gurus, so I decided to forgo the permit and employ a less formal, i.e. unpermitted, system.


It cost $312, plus some help from a friend. A Berkeley group also took me through Plumbing 101. That was three weeks ago. In the time since, I’ve run about 10 loads of laundry in my Whirlpool Thin Twin, sending 300 gallons of water into my garden that would have otherwise gone to the sewer. Can that really be so wrong?

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-- Susan Carpenter