News Details
'Laundry to Landscape' Graywater Pilot Program


August 23, 2011

Today, the City of Long Beach announced a pilot program called the ‘Laundry to Landscape’ Backyard Irrigation Program for single-family homeowners to use “graywater” from their washing machines, bathtubs and sinks in irrigation systems for trees, shrubs and gardens. Benefits include reduced consumption of potable water, reduced load on sewage infrastructure and the replenishment of natural groundwater sources.

Water discharged from washing machines, bathtubs and sinks is considered graywater, dirtier than potable water but cleaner than sewage water or "black" water. Graywater irrigation systems are safe for watering most vegetable gardens, except for root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. Graywater is not recommended for watering lawns.

With the pilot program, 36 single-family homes throughout the City of Long Beach will be selected by a random drawing from a pool of applicants to participate. Four people in each of the nine City Council districts will receive a free installation. The program is open to single-family homeowners with suitable properties.

The pilot stems from a motion co-sponsored by Councilmember James Johnson, Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal and Councilmember Patrick O'Donnell to develop a program that explored the possibilities of water conservation through graywater systems building on the success of other City sustainability initiatives, including the Rain Barrel Program, Mulch Home Delivery Program and Lawn to Garden program. The program is a partnership between the Water Department, which is providing the funding, and the Office of Sustainability. It will be evaluated for effectiveness, and to determine whether to consider future programs that include more advanced graywater systems.

No City permits are required, but a licensed plumber will install the systems. Green Job Trainees with the Office of Sustainability will assist with installing the irrigation system.

For more information or to apply for the Laundry to Landscape Backyard Irrigation Program, please go to www.sustainablelb.com or call (562) 570-6281.

ORIGINAL GRAYWATER PILOT PROGRAM MOTION:

Refer exploration of a potential greywater pilot project to the City Council’s Environmental Committee for deliberation and consultation with stakeholders and request that they report back to the Council regarding their recommendation.

DISCUSSION:

The history of California has long been defined by water—how we get it, who gets it, and where it goes. How jurisdictions throughout the state manage water use and how we can creatively increase conservation will determine how our economy and quality of life will fare, given the long-term constraints on our water supply.

One solution that has been proposed to reduce the use of potable water is the reuse of “greywater.” Greywater is water that is dirtier than potable or “white” water but cleaner than sewage water or “black” water. For example, water discharged from bathtubs and sinks is greywater. Subject to state and local regulations, such water can be reused to water lawns and gardens rather than being discharged along with blackwater through sewage pipes, thus reducing the use of potable water.

It is estimated that by using indoor water for landscapes, overall potable water use could decline by 14-40%. Such savings would represent a fundamental shift in Long Beach’s demand and continue our reputation as a national leader in conservation.

Historically, the use of greywater has been constrained by state law that discouraged its use. However, in August 2009 the State Plumbing Code was revised to encourage greywater use throughout the state. (Attached) Given this change, the City should work with all interested stakeholders such as the Water Department, Developments Services, the environmental community, the Sustainability Commission, and the Office of Sustainability to explore a greywater pilot project. Such a project would select a small number of households to undertake approved greywater systems to assess the water conservation that results as well as the cost and effort required.

FISCAL IMPACT

There are no significant costs for the Council’s Environmental Committee to explore this item. Any city costs related to a pilot project would be presented to Council for final approval before commencement.