Graywater to Landscape

$150 per each qualified graywater connection for a maximum of 3 connections

  1. Clothes washing machine to landscape or “Laundry to Landscape” (doesn't need a building permit)
  2. Bathtub and/or shower to landscape (Requires building permit)
  3. Bathroom sink to landscape (Requires building permit)

Graywater System Rebate Application

Take advantage of recent California Plumbing Code changes that now make it legal to capture and reuse wastewater from showers/bathtubs, bathroom sinks, and clothes washing machines (i.e. graywater) to irrigate your outdoor landscape.

Receive a rebate of $150 per connection (up to a maximum of $450 for three qualifying connections) when you install a graywater system to irrigate your landscape. The new regulations (and the rebate) apply to single or two-unit residential buildings only.

Graywater systems must meet all applicable state and local requirements to prevent potential health threats and environmental contamination. Please refer to the information below (see Graywater System Regulatory Requirements) regarding state and local graywater system requirements.

Graywater is: wastewater from showers/baths, bathroom sinks, and clothes washing machines only. Graywater may contain fats, oils, grease, hair, lint, soaps, and household cleaners. However, it can be safely used to irrigate most landscapes (except root crops or edible crops that touch the soil) as long as regulatory requirements and guidelines are followed.

Graywater is not: wastewater from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, or toilets, or from clothes washing machines when used to wash diapers or other infectious garments. Wastewater from these sources is referred to as “blackwater” and cannot be used due to the risk of contamination by bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.

Water savings and graywater system cost
You can save water and money during the irrigation season when you use graywater to irrigate instead of or in addition to potable (i.e. drinking) water. A benefit of using graywater is that it is generated year-round and is thus readily available when needed during the irrigation season. Although the amount of water you can save is dependent upon the specific size and design of your landscape, landscape water typically accounts for about 25% of total residential water use during the dry season.

A typical Laundry to Landscape graywater system costs about $1,200 for parts and installation labor. Laundry to Landscape systems can be installed by a handy homeowner as long as the regulatory design requirements are met, but hiring a professional is generally recommended. Graywater systems that connect existing wastewater plumbing lines from showers/bath tubs and/or bathroom sinks to an outdoor landscape must be installed by a licensed plumber. These systems are more expensive.

If you have any questions regarding graywater system rebates, or need additional information, please contact our Conservation Department at (831) 475-8500.

Graywater System Rebate Eligibility

Complete rebate eligibility requirements are listed on the graywater system rebate application.  However, we still want you to be aware of the following:

  • Rebate applies to parts and materials only. Sales tax and installation labor are not included.
  • Graywater systems must be installed and rebate applications must be postmarked within 90 days of the purchase date of parts and materials.
  • A representative of SqCWD must be permitted to inspect the property to verify installation and proper construction prior to rebate approval.
  • The applicant/customer is responsible for identifying and complying with all applicable state and local laws regarding system permitting, design, and operation (see information below for more details).
  • A copy of the building permit must be submitted with the rebate application for all graywater systems connecting to any source other than a clothes washing machine.
  • The maximum number of graywater system rebates is three per household.
  • The IRS requires all rebate program participants receiving $600 or more per calendar year in rebates to be issued an IRS Form 1099 unless exemptions apply. If you have received rebates from Soquel Creek Water District (SqCWD) totaling $600 or more in the current calendar year, you must submit a completed IRS W-9 Form with your rebate application to receive a rebate. The Social Security or Tax ID number requested in the rebate application process is in compliance with exemptions to the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, 42 UCS 405 (c)(2)(c).  Social Security numbers provided as part of the application process are held in confidence under terms of the Privacy Act and are not divulged or otherwise conveyed to individuals or organizations outside the SqCWD Rebate Program.

Graywater System Regulatory Requirements and Permitting Requirements

Graywater systems must meet California Plumbing Code requirements (Title 24 Part 5, Chapter 16A) and local (i.e. City of Capitola or County of Santa Cruz) permitting, design and operation requirements to prevent potential health threats and environmental contamination. The table below summarizes local permitting requirements:

Type of System No Permit Required Permit Required
Laundry to Landscape X  
Shower/Bathtub/Bathroom Sink to Landscape (Simple = 250 gallons/day)   X
Shower/Bathtub/Bathroom Sink to Landscape (Complex > 250 gallons/day)   X
  • Local agencies do not require permits for clothes washing machine or Laundry to Landscape graywater systems; however, all other graywater systems (i.e. shower/bathtub and bathroom sink) require a permit to install.
  • Additionally, local permit requirements vary depending upon how many gallons of graywater are collected per day. Systems distributing 250 gallons or less per day are classified as “simple” and those distributing more than 250 gallons per day are classified as “complex”. In general, simple graywater systems have fewer requirements.
  • In addition to permitting requirements, if a pump is used to distribute the graywater, Soquel Creek Water District requires a backflow prevention device. A backflow prevention device is used to protect the potable water supply by preventing the flow of non-potable water and materials into the potable supply line.
  • Graywater should never be stored.

Design & Operation Requirements for Laundry to Landscape Systems

The most common and cost-effective residential graywater systems are Laundry to Landscape systems. While these systems do not require a permit, there are eleven basic design and operation requirements that must be met:

  1. The design must allow the user to direct graywater flow to the irrigation field, or to the sewer or septic system. The direction control of the graywater must be clearly labeled and readily accessible to the user.
  2. The installation, change, alteration or repair of the system may not include a potable water connection or a pump and may not affect other building, plumbing, electrical or mechanical components, including structural features, egress, fire-life safety, sanitation, potable water supply piping or accessibility.
  3. The graywater must be contained on site where it is generated.
  4. Graywater must be directed to and contained within an irrigation area.
  5. Ponding or runoff is prohibited and is considered a nuisance.
  6. Graywater may be released above the ground surface provided at least two (2) inches of mulch, rock, or soil or a solid shield covers the release point. Other methods that provide equivalent separation are also acceptable.
  7. Systems must be designed and operated to prevent graywater contact with humans and domestic pets.
  8. Water used to wash diapers or other infectious garments may not be used and must be diverted to the building sewer or septic system.
  9. Graywater may not contain hazardous chemicals derived from activities such as cleaning car parts, washing greasy or oil rags, or disposing of waste from home photo labs or similar hobbyist or home occupational activities.
  10. Exemption from construction permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any graywater system to be installed in a manner that violates other provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of the Enforcing Agency (i.e. the City of Capitola or the County of Santa Cruz).
  11. An operation and maintenance manual must be maintained by the owner for all graywater systems. Directions in the manual must indicate the manual is to remain with the building throughout the life of the system and indicate that upon change in ownership or occupancy, the new tenant must be notified that the structure contains a graywater system.

If you have questions about the regulatory requirements associated with graywater systems, please contact the applicable building code official/environmental health agency. If you reside within the City of Capitola, contact Brian Van Son, Building Official at (831) 475-7300 or mailto:bvanson@ci.capitola.ca.us
If you reside within the unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County, contact:  Santa Cruz County Environmental Health Services (831)454-3133. You will need to go to SCC planning department for permits for shower and bathroom sink connections.

Common Questions about Graywater Systems

Q: Should special soaps or detergents be used with graywater systems?

A: To keep your plants healthy, it is best to avoid soap with the following ingredients:  chlorine or bleach, peroxygen, sodium perborate, sodium trypochlorite, boron, borax, petroleum distillate, alkylbenzene, “whiteners”, “softeners” and “enzymatic” components. In general, liquid soaps are better than power soaps. For more information about soaps, see this website.

Q: Where can I find more information about graywater?

A: There are many resources you can use to help determine if graywater will work for you, and if so, to help design an effective system. The best place to start is the California Plumbing Code (CPC) Title 24, Part 5, Chapter 16A. The CPC provides important information regarding how to build a graywater system to avoiding surfacing or runoff, groundwater contamination and human or pet contact with wastewater. Professional help: You can also request a professional graywater consultation from a member of the Central Coast Graywater Alliance to help you design your system.

Other Resources and Links

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