Rules and Regs: San Francisco Expands Graywater Recycling Requirement in City Buildings

Also in this month’s regulations update, the state of Washington expands program for failing system repair or replacement

Rules and Regs: San Francisco Expands Graywater Recycling Requirement in City Buildings

Cities are one of the last places you might expect on-site wastewater recycling, but in late September the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to expand the recycling required of buildings in the city.

Since 2012, buildings of at least 250,000 square feet have been required to treat some graywater (showers and bathroom sinks) and reuse it to flush toilets and irrigate plants, report San Francisco news media. The new rule lowers the recycling threshold to 100,000 square feet. Large commercial developments will also have to expand influent to include wastewater from kitchen sinks and toilets.

Residential complexes will have to collect condensate from heating and cooling systems and use that in laundry rooms. Affordable housing is exempt from this rule.

When constructed a few years ago, Salesforce Tower, the city’s tallest building and headquarters of the customer relationship software company Salesforce, included a full wastewater recycling system. Effluent is for nonpotable use: flushing toilets, irrigating plants and running cooling towers. Recycled water replaces about 30,000 gallons of freshwater per day for the building.

All the new rules take effect on Jan. 1. And all of this happens as California faces the prospect of water shortages driven by climate change. Gov. Gavin Newsom in late September approved a $5.2 billion plan that will invest in short-term drought response and long-term water resilience. There is money for water and wastewater infrastructure with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities.

Lawsuit against proposed WWTP presents problems for onsite system owners

A Massachusetts town’s challenge to a lawsuit predicts widespread problems for onsite system owners if its opponent prevails in the case.

Earlier this year, the Conservation Law Foundation filed suit against the town of Barnstable on Cape Cod and its plan for its wastewater treatment plant. The foundation claims the state permit for the plant allows for too much nitrogen discharge, which ultimately travels through groundwater and feeds algae blooms in Lewis Bay. The foundation asked a federal judge to require a stronger NPDES permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In a response, the town said effluent from its plant requires about 21 years to reach the bay. A 2020 Supreme Court decision found effluent discharged into groundwater can be the equivalent of direct surface discharge depending on the circumstances. Because of this ruling, the town wrote, if the foundation prevails in the case, homeowners, businesses and other owners of onsite systems would either have to shut down those systems or obtain Clean Water Act permits to continue operation.

Florida county receives grant to upgrade onsite systems

As part of a $114 million program to improve water quality, the state recommended in late September that Orange County, Florida, receive a $41 million grant for wastewater treatment.

According to the county government, money may be used for upgrading standard septic systems to include nutrient removal technology, to provide advanced wastewater treatment, or to replace onsite systems with municipal sewer.

Ohio counties receives funds to improve water and wastewater infrastructure

Communities in the southeastern part of Ohio will receive more than $11.2 million in funding to improve wastewater and water infrastructure.

In Athens, Jefferson, Lawrence and Pike counties, local health departments will receive $150,000 for the repair or replacement of onsite systems, reported the Pike County News Watchman. The loans are eligible for forgiveness of the principal.

Washington expands program for failing system repair or replacement

Starting Sept. 1, every county in the state of Washington was eligible for the Regional On-Site Sewage System Loan Program. Although the program was established in 2016, the last 17 counties were not added until this year.

Under the program, residents may obtain financing for the repair or replacement of failing onsite systems. The program finances the full cost of a system and does not require upfront costs. People with low incomes may be eligible for deferred payments, according to the state Department of Ecology.

Owner-occupied homes are the primary targets although commercial properties and homes not occupied by owners may also qualify. The loan program is a partnership among the Ecology Department, Health Department and Craft3, a nonprofit community lender.

Grant money available to replacement onsite systems impacting the Lampasas River watershed

People with a failing onsite system in the Lampasas River watershed may be eligible for a grant to pay up to 100% of the cost of a replacement.

Federal money will pay for about 15 systems within the watershed, with a maximum payment of $8,000 for each system, according to AgriLife Today from Texas A&M University. The watershed covers parts of Mills, Hamilton, Lampasas, Coryell, Burnet, Bell and Williamson counties in Texas.

Money comes from Clean Water Act grants for nonpoint sources, and the program is coordinated by the Lampasas River Watershed Partnership. More information is available online at

Priority will be given to failing systems within 2,000 feet of an affected waterbody.


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