With the emergence of water conservation, reclamation, and reutilization in the United States, gray water has taken on greater significance.
What is Gray Water?
Gray water is wastewater from domestic, industrial and commercial facilities that does not contain sanitary wastes or food-related wastes.
Where does it come from?
It can come from bathtubs, showers, bathroom sinks and washing machines. Generally any water source other than toilets in your home or business can be considered gray water.
Is gray water harmful?
Yes. If not handled properly, gray water can pose a risk to public health and the environment. It’s important to understand that gray water can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, and chemicals.
What’s the benefit of gray water?
Gray water is generally an excellent source of reclaimable water. Once properly treated, the water can be reutilized for landscape irrigation, wash water for vehicles, potential water for cooling towers, toilets, urinals, and many other uses.
Regulations and ratings:
There are many new and proposed regulations that will mandate the use of gray water for achieving “green” building, recycling and energy-reduction objectives. Such programs include the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.
LEED is a nationally accepted benchmark developed by the U.S. Green Building council that provides third-party verification for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.
The intent is to improve energy savings, indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, lower CO2 emissions, and stewardship of resources. According to the USGBC site (http://www.usgbc.org/), “LEED provides building owners and operators with the tools they need to have an immediate and measureable impact on their buildings’ performance.” Founded in 1998, the U.S. Green Building council now includes over 14,000 projects in the U.S. and 30 countries.
What to look for in a gray water treatment firm:
Every gray water project is unique. Before applying for a gray water use permit, look for an environmental solutions or treatment firm that can evaluate your specific site conditions, challenges and long-term objectives. The optimal choice will be a company that can design a complete turnkey program that will meet current as well as future needs.
A thorough evaluation of your application will be necessary before gray water can be reused for any landscape irrigation project, or re-utilized in flush toilets and urinals.
Qualifying for LEED Credits:
Gray water recovery, treatment and distribution systems may qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits towards your remodel or new project. Look for a company that can help you maximize those credits through high-quality systems that perform as designed.
Remember that gray water treatment systems must also meet current building code requirements. Be aware that local building requirements can differ widely in some communities.
Maintenance and Monitoring:
Your gray water program will likely require an ongoing commitment that includes scheduled maintenance and monitoring to insure your investment in gray water recovery and reutilization performs over the long term.
It’s important to maintain an interface and continue to dialogue with local and state governing agencies that approve and promote gray water programs. This will help to improve the quality and efficiency of your gray water program.
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