Laundry water could double as a source of irrigation for residents who take advantage of a new program offered by local water districts.
As part of a push to use less potable water and ease demand on sewage treatment facilities, the San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley water districts are coordinating with local environmental groups to help homeowners set up gray water irrigation systems.
Gray water is wastewater from laundry machines, bathroom sinks, showers and bathtubs. An average California household produces more than 10,000 gallons of gray water during the typically dry months of May to October, according to the Central Coast Greywater Alliance
On May 4, the first of three free, do-it-yourself workshops is open to residents at the Scotts Valley Water District office, 2 Civic Center Drive, in Scotts Valley.
Volunteers trained by Ecology Action, a Santa Cruz-based environmental organization, will discuss and demonstrate ways to install and use gray water irrigation systems, as well as which laundry detergents are gentlest on soil.
In addition, volunteers from Ecology Action will be available to help install systems at residents’ homes.
This regional effort is part of the 100 Greywater Challenge, a program of the Central Coast Greywater Alliance and Ecology Action to reduce demand for potable water and wastewater treatment.
LeAnne Ravinale is a water conservation coordinator for Scotts Valley Water District.
“This is about empowering people to save water on their properties,” Ravinale said. “(Residents are) processing wastewater on their own site and they’re preventing potable from being used.”
According to Ravinale, a three-way valve is attached to the back of a laundry machine, enabling the homeowner to determine whether used water from the machine will flow into the home’s sewage system or to an irrigation system.
“You don’t have to add a pump or filter,” Ravinale said.
She estimated that a family of four could easily use more than 4,000 gallons of water a year to wash laundry.
The May 4 workshop, she said, is the first of its kind in the county and will be followed by two more on July 27 and Aug. 24.
Each includes homeowner training, volunteer help for installation and a $75 rebate from the Scotts Valley Water District following installation of the system.
Ravinale said the district’s rebate offer could be applied to the cost of materials to set up a gray water irrigation system. She said the cost of a premade kit at ProBuild building supply stores is $175.
“We teach people how to do it to code,” Ravinale said. “You don’t need a permit, but you do need to do it to code.”
The training, she said, will include a discussion of what plants thrive best with gray water irrigation, when to use the system and how and where to install mulch to keep the gray water from escaping.
Betsy Herbert, an environmental analyst with the San Lorenzo Valley Water District said that instructional classes are important for homeowners, not only so they understand gray water’s usefulness, but also to ensure that irrigation systems are installed properly.
“It’s important to do it right,” she said. “If it’s done correctly, it can save a lot of water.”
A training program is getting started in the San Lorenzo Valley, as well, after the board of directors of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District agreed at its April 4 meeting to spend $3,650 to host an installation workshop and provide $100 each toward the purchase of 35 installation kits.
Herbert said the funding came from the district’s conservation budget.
“The board is looking at a way to test it as a pilot program,” she said. “This is a program that we know people are very interested in.”
Herbert said customers of the SLV Water District are invited to apply for a kit and training, which is expected to take place July 13 at Highlands Senior Center, 8500 Highway 9, in Ben Lomond.
For more information about the 100 Greywater Challenge, call 438-2363 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register for a workshop, visit www.centralcoastgraywater.org.
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