Denver’s Graywater Program Supports the City’s 2020 Community Sustainability Goal for Water Quantity
Denver, May 12, 2016—Water reuse advocates celebrated this week as Denver City Council took the first step in creating a local program to help oversee graywater use in the city. After reviewing a draft ordinance in front of the Safety and Well-being Committee on April 12, the first official reading before city council took place on April 25, making Denver the first city in the Centennial State to begin the necessary process of establishing a local program.
In 2014, House Bill 1044 authorized the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) to develop regulations to ensure graywater can be reused safely. Over a two-year period, the CDPHE’s Water Quality Control Division worked with stakeholders and other State of Colorado agency representatives to draft Colorado’s first graywater regulation. On May 11, 2015, Graywater Control Regulation (Regulation 86) was adopted by the Water Control Commission and outlined requirements, prohibitions, and standards for graywater use for nondrinking purposes.
While developing the graywater program for the City of Denver, CDPHE and the Plumbing Board followed the guidance of other states who have implemented a graywater program such as Oregon, New York, Texas and New Mexico, however because this program involves the general public, they decided to take a more rigorous approach.
“As Denver’s population grows, water conservation will be of continued importance,” said Sonrisa Lucero, Sustainability Strategist, City of Denver. “The ordinance empowers the Denver Board of Environmental Health to develop regulations to govern the use of graywater within the city and empowers the Department of Environmental Health, in coordination with Community Planning and Development, to administer the program.”
Denver Water estimates for every 1,000 graywater systems installed in single-family homes, enough water could be saved to serve about 125 households per year (Denver Water, 2016). Further, a graywater program will support the City’s 2020 Community Sustainability Goal for Water Quantity of reducing per capita use of potable water in Denver by 22% by providing a new option to conserve water.
In an effort to address numerous health concerns, Colorado State University conducted a study on the long-term effects of graywater on soil quality, as a result of its application for residential landscape irrigation. The research team collected soil samples at households with existing graywater irrigations systems which had been in place for more than five years in the state of Colorado, California, and Texas. Results indicated that graywater irrigation may actually increase the rate of infiltration of water into soils and long-term irrigation with graywater will most likely not result in reduced infiltration capacity. Additionally, the team found that areas irrigated with graywater may not have more pathogen indicators than areas irrigated with fresh water.
Industry professionals are already considering graywater for their further development projects. iUnit, a development technology company building energy efficient, net zero housing communities, have started incorporating smart water meters in their units that can detect leaks down to a leaking flapper in the toilet which is responsible for nine gallons of wasted water per day. “A lot of people don’t realize the energy involved in our water systems and also how finite of a resource potable water is,” said Brice Leconte, Founder at iUnit. “By incorporating graywater systems in our communities we are able to address this issue and make better use of water.”
“Every day that we wait there is another project that goes by without considering the application of graywater systems,” said Patti Mason, Executive Director, USGBC Colorado. “Regulation 86 is just one piece of broader water reuse conversation that’s underway in Colorado. As the city of Denver moves forward with graywater implementation, we anticipate seeing other growing communities across the state follow suit.”
About USGBC Colorado
The U.S. Green Building Council Colorado Chapter is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was established in the state of Colorado in 2003. USGBC Colorado was the 15th chapter to be recognized by U.S. Green Building Council and is part of a nationwide network of local chapters that all contribute to the mission of transforming the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. Our goal is to achieve our mission through education, improving industry guidelines, policy, advocacy, and information and resourcing sharing. Visit us online, and on Facebookand Twitter.