City council proposal approves increase in greywater systems


Thomas Allison

The Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility is reflected in a pond of recycled graywater Tuesday evening in East Austin. The facility is one of two major wastewater treatment facilities currently utilized in Austin.

Kayla Jonsson

Single-family residences in Austin will have the opportunity to implement greywater systems to increase conservation and lower costs under a new city council proposal.

Properly designed greywater systems allow water from bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs and clothes washers to be safely reused for watering and irrigation of gardens and landscapes. The decision to offer more greywater systems, approved last week, is a result of the Stage 2 Watering Restrictions currently in effect in Austin due to the widespread drought, according to the proposal.

“Water will continue to be a major concern for the foreseeable future, and much of our potable water is used to water yards and landscaping,” said Austin city council member Chris Riley.

“With greywater systems, those water needs could be met largely with water that might otherwise go right down the drain.”

Receiving a permit to implement a greywater system in single-family residences will become much easier than in the past, when only one Austin residence legally qualified, Riley said.

According to the proposal, staff support and resources could be offered to residents through the Austin Energy Green Building Program which currently offers green building and construction guidelines.

Incentives such as rebates may also be offered to encourage greywater systems, according to the proposal.

UT will not be affected by this proposal because it is currently implementing a water reclaiming system through “purple pipes,” said UT technical associate Patrick Mazur.

“UT has its own water cooling towers that runs through vaporization, which causes us to lose a lot of water,” Mazur said. “Through the purple pipe system being provided by the city, rather than letting all that water we lose just go back into the creeks and then to the ocean, it literally runs through purple pipes to be cleaned and then reused.”

Mazur said implementing a greywater system requires having a separate sewage line solely for toilet water and dish water, which is considered blackwater and is not reused, and UT has no plan to add another sewage pipe.

Pliny Fisk, co-director of The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems which has conducted greywater research, along with other studies for greener homes and buildings, said it is critical for Austin to use greywater systems.

“Every parking lot, house and building should be seen as a collection ground,” Fisk said. “We should cover more ground, not just homes.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 as: Plan reuses water, cuts costs