The Oklahoma House of Representatives recently passed a permit exemption for residential use of gray water. This sounds like a stride in the right direction but what does it mean to the average homeowner? How would you or I take advantage of this exemption and reduce our treated municipal water use?
The legislation, House Bill 2835, defines gray water as "untreated household wastewater that has not come in contact with toilet waste or water from a kitchen sink." The legislation directs the Department of Environmental Quality to exempt private residential gray water reuse systems that meet a series of rules. A gray water system would be used for gardening, composting or landscape irrigation. A family of 4 generates over 100 gallons per day, or 3,000 gallons per month of graywater. Why let this water go to waste when it can easily be used on your garden?
Reusing wastewater on planted areas is nothing new to agrarian cultures. It is documented that English and German farmers have used wastewater as fertilizer from as early as the 16th century. Early Greeks did the same thing, as did many Asian countries even before the days of Plato. Disease problems associated with wastewater, including pathogenic bacteria and viruses, occurred primarily through direct contact with human waste in cities. Without a doubt, disease and odor are two of the biggest concerns people have about gray water re-use. Fortunately, the proposed legislation addresses health and safety issues directly.
While gray water reuse may not be something every homeowner could afford to do, House Bill 2835 does make it possible for systems to be included in future home construction. Although it is presently illegal to use gray water for any purpose in the state, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation has been watering their golf courses without incident for several years. For more information gray water gardening, visit www.graywatergardening.com or watch this short video with practical water reuse tips. Finally, don't forget to contact your state senator to recommend passage of HB 2835. It's been a long time coming.