Water management is an essential component of resilient building design. However, codes and regulations are typically structured around traditional centralized water delivery and wastewater systems. Therefore, for architects and builders, introducing decentralized systems to capture and reuse water means that projects can easily become mired in regulatory quicksand. But it seems that codes may be changing to accommodate systems that support the capture and reuse of graywater.
Since 2012, a number of municipalities have passed regulations to govern the design, permitting, and safety of graywater reuse systems. Cities such as San Francisco and Seattle, in fact, now require large buildings to operate their own onsite non-potable water systems.
In December, the National Blue Ribbon Commission (NBRC), a coalition of water advocacy groups and water agencies, published a set of documents to help municipalities craft regulations for water reuse systems. These documents include a guidebook for implementing regulations for non-potable reuse systems, model language for a local water reuse ordinance, and model language for a state ordinance.
Navigating the jurisdictional jungle and getting projects approved to treat graywater for potable reuse applications still proves challenging, however, even with the emergence of municipal frameworks. Multiple agencies are often involved since many reuse systems fall under building, plumbing, and health codes. While local jurisdictions manage building codes, public health is a state-level agency. Therefore, water utilities may be managed at city, county, or regional levels, making project approval a highly complex process.
But architects and project managers appear encouraged by recent regulatory developments and optimistic that new guidelines will provide a supportive framework, while offering their clients and the building community valuable tools to aid in the development of future water reuse projects.
How does the revision of codes regulating decentralized water systems affect your organization?