Ordinance would allow gray water use

An Augusta builder would like to include water conservation technology into new home construction, and Columbia County officials want to help.


"One of the things we're initially offering and implementing is the ability to recapture rainwater from the roof and gutters into tanks that are placed underground during construction," said Paul Meyer, who owns Nassau Development Inc. and co-owns Begreen Products Inc. with Thomas Coulson. "You then have a pump system whereby you can reclaim that water for your sprinkler system."

Mr. Meyer, who recently started Begreen Products to offer builders green technologies for new houses, said he'd also like to use the rainwater system to recycle "gray water" for irrigation.

"Gray water is any water you use in the house that doesn't have fecal matter in it, or matter that comes from a kitchen sink," said Columbia County Water Utility Director Billy Clayton. "The things that go down showers or washing machines ... can be used to water plants and shrubs without causing any harm."

County commissioners will entertain the first reading of a new ordinance Tuesday to allow builders to refit showers, washing machines and other gray water-producing appliances for irrigation purposes, commission Chairman Ron Cross said.

The average household, Mr. Clayton said, produces between 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of gray water each month. The advantages of such a system, Mr. Meyer and Mr. Clayton said, are a reduction in stormwater runoff and a reduction in wastewater. Some communities in Florida already use gray water reclamation systems, Mr. Meyer said. Australians use gray water on fires, he said.

"There are numerous positive aspects to installing such a system," he said of the system that costs about $3,000. "You'd be able to water your grass on days your neighbor might not be able to because of drought. You'll also save money on your water bill and, possibly, on your stormwater fee."

So far, Mr. Meyer's company has installed the rainwater reclamation system for three houses under construction.

"Right now, we're working primarily with new construction, but we're hoping, at some point, we'll also be able to offer the system to existing homes," he said.

The Richmond County Board of Health in July approved an ordinance, pending an attorney's review, allowing the use of gray water on flower gardens, lawns and for composting. The wastewater would not be allowed for use on a vegetable garden and may not drain off the property.

Currently, state regulations only allow rainwater reclamation systems to be used through sprinklers, Mr. Clayton said.

State code allows for storage of gray water for irrigation purposes, said Ernest Earn, an Environmental Protection Division natural resource program worker, but the water must be administered with a handheld watering device. To irrigate with gray water using an underground watering system, a permit from a county's health department would be needed, he said.

Mr. Earn said the state Department of Community Affairs will discuss a change to the plumbing code Nov. 5 that might allow the use of treated gray water for toilets and urinals.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.