GRAY WA­TER OK IN SAN MAR­COS

Un­der pro­posal, res­i­dents would be al­lowed to use shower, wash­ing ma­chine drainage on yards

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­trick Ge­orge

SAN MAR­COS — In or­der to go green, the City of San Mar­cos could be get­ting a lit­tle gray.

The San Mar­cos City Coun­cil tonight will re­view a pro­posed or­di­nance that would al­low “gray wa­ter” — waste­water from show­ers, bath­tubs, sinks and wash­ing ma­chines — to be used for land­scap­ing and cer­tain other pur­poses.

If the coun­cil ap­proves the or­di­nance, San Mar­cos will join Austin as one of the first Cen­tral Texas cities to have an or­di­nance aimed at re-us­ing not-so-dirty wa­ter for a va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions.

Gray wa­ter refers to any kind of wa­ter that has been used in the home ex­cept from toi­lets — wa­ter that con­tains hu­man or an­i­mal waste is of­ten called “black wa­ter.” Al­though it is not potable, gray wa­ter is an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar con­ser­va­tion tech­nique.

Since 2004, state law has al­lowed res­i­dents to use gray wa­ter to wa­ter around a home’s foun­da­tion to pre­vent cracks, as well as for com­post­ing, gar­den­ing and ir­ri­ga­tion. Jon Clack, the city’s as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of wa­ter and waste­water util­i­ties, said the pro­posed or­di­nance will

clar­ify its ap­pli­ca­tions within city lim­its.

This in­cludes lim­it­ing gray wa­ter use to less than 400 gal­lons a day for res­i­den­tial pur­poses, Clack said. “We just wanted to set the min­i­mum stan­dards for San Mar­cos,” he said.

In ad­di­tion, the pro­posed or­di­nance stip­u­lates that gray wa­ter must be ap­plied in a way that pre­vents pool­ing and runoff onto other prop­er­ties. Clack said the or­di­nance pri­mar­ily tar­gets new home con­struc­tion.

“We’re en­cour­ag­ing builders to in­stall new gray wa­ter plumb­ing,” Clack said. But there are no in­cen­tives cur­rently planned for builders or res­i­dents, he said.

For com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tions, gray wa­ter can only be used for land­scape main­te­nance, dust con­trol and toi­let flush­ing.

Coun­cil Mem­ber John Thomaides said that the or­di­nance is one that res­i­dents have pushed for in the past.

“Cit­i­zens have com­mu­ni­cated to me through the years that they want to cap­ture laun­dry wa­ter, mostly for gar­den­ing,” Thomaides said. “If home­own­ers want to use it to save aquifer wa­ter, it’s a good thing. (The or­di­nance) gives us the abil­ity to tell peo­ple how to use it.”

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