Press Release: Supervisor Wiener to Introduce Legislation to Remove Unnecessary Permit Requirement for Residential Water Recycling Systems

Ordinance will remove the existing plumbing permit requirement for residents installing a simple greywater system to irrigate yards, gardens, and other outdoor areas around their homes

San Francisco— Today, Supervisor Scott Wiener will introduce legislation to remove the permit requirement for residents who want to install simple recycled water systems to irrigate gardens, yards, and other outdoor areas around their homes. Currently, a plumbing permit is required to install these simple greywater systems, adding cost and impediments that can discourage residents from making home improvements to conserve water.

Earlier this year, Supervisor Wiener authored legislation to require onsite water recycling systems in new large developments, which the Board of Supervisors passed unanimously in June. This made San Francisco the first city in the country to require recycled water to be used for irrigation and toilet flushing in new housing an office developments.

“Water recycling is a crucial part of reforming our outdated approach to water in San Francisco and California generally,” said Supervisor Wiener. “Frankly, we are so far behind on water recycling, and it’s absurd that so much pristine Hetch Hetchy water is used for irrigation and flushing toilets. We need to make it easy for people to install water recycling systems in their homes, and we shouldn’t place cumbersome requirements on what is a simple but effective water conservation solution — we need to empower people to join in the effort to create a more sustainable future for our city.”

“This legislation will encourage safe and legal greywater reuse,” said Laura Allen, co-founder of Greywater Action. “This forward-thinking practice will allow San Franciscans to use greywater more affordably and safely. Using residential greywater for irrigation is a safe and effective practice, and saves water while growing beautiful landscapes.”

Greywater is water from sinks, showers, and bath tubs that can be used for irrigation and other non-potable uses, such as flushing toilets. Currently the state plumbing code requires permits for the installation of any residential greywater system. However, the code provides that a local agency may exempt simple greywater systems — defined as discharging 250 gallons or less per day — from permit requirements. This legislation adopts that exemption for residential irrigation purposes in San Francisco. Marin County has already adopted this exemption, and Santa Barbara County is currently considering doing the same.