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Editorial August 13th, 2009


 

Guest Editorial

An Easy Solution for the Water Problem
by John Smylie
Attorney-at-law


Why won’t the bureaucrats let us use our gray water for landscaping? Water for residential landscaping in Southern California ranges between twenty percent and sixty percent of the total residential water consumption. We would not have a water crisis if the various agencies could work together to solve the problem. Isn’t the government supposed to work for the citizens? Instead of solving the problem with straightforward solutions, they impose restrictions on the people who pay their salaries (and benefits).

I inquired as to the use of gray water (shower, bath, washing machine, lavatory) for landscaping for three personal construction projects over the past fifteen years. In each case, the architect and contractor (after investigation) advised me of the difficulty and costs of using gray water for landscaping. It was not worth the cost.

The agencies blame each other. Why don’t they try to solve the problem? The local water district will tell you it is out of their jurisdiction. It is a Metropolitan water district requirement. Even if you satisfied the Metropolitan Water District requirements (underground distribution system, holding tanks, etc), the Health Department would impose additional restrictions and permits. The Building Code has additional restrictions. The County building department has more restrictions. The estimated cost for a gray water distribution system for my residence would have been at least $3,000.00 in 1980.

Southern California residents should not have to reduce their water consumption if the bureaucrats would let us use the water in an efficient manner. It is not toilet to tap! It is shower to grass!

Vallecitos Water District (the old San Marcos Water District) does have a recovery system. Vallecitos Water District reclaims their sewer water through a tertiary recovery system. The water is then sold to Carlsbad and Olivenhain for landscaping and golf course use.

In the United States and in particular San Diego County we have to deal with environmental and legal objections for water reclamation projects – such as adding a tertiary system for the Encino plant which treats the sewer discharge for much of North County. These legal obstructions are not a problem with many other countries. Singapore is developing major water projects to continue their industrial and residential growth. Maybe there is something to be said for a dictatorship, if it benefits the residents.

It can be done in the United States. A development near Taos, New Mexico, saves and reclaims water on a major scale.

I understand San Diego Country Estates has a grey water recovery system. If it is still in operation, it can be done in San Diego County.

Why can’t we use the American ingenuity to develop a rational plan to solve the water crisis? We have an easy solution available. We might need subsidies and low interest loans to implement gray water use for old construction, but most of the water districts have substantial reserves. They could use some of those reserves for loans for the gray water systems. The residents could repay the loans through the water bill. There would be a secondary benefit to the residents in the reduction in the bill for the water consumption. Gray water systems should be a requirement for new construction, not a hindrance.

The cost of the systems must be reduced to be reasonable. People with septic systems know the landscaping near the drainage field is luxurious. Many of us remember the family farm where the wash water was simply drained on the ground. We could barely control the landscaping at the end of the drain.

Contact your legislator, perhaps they could develop a proposition to create a water commission with dictatorial powers similar to the Coastal Commission. While ordinarily I would not support a dictatorial commission, desperate situations require desperate solutions.

The reclamation and storage of storm water run off is another story.

Sincerely,

John Smylie, San Marcos, Ca.

 

 

 

 


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