Requirements for no-permit systems in California

Under the new (2009) California greywater code, washing machine systems that do not alter the existing plumbing do not require a permit as long as the installer follows these guidelines. (Single fixture systems were removed from the permit exemption after the public comment period- a shower system does require a permit.) This change went into effect on August 4th, 2009 and will be written into the state plumbing code for 2011.

Summary of requirements:

The system must:

  • have an easy way to direct flow back to the sewer/septic (like a 3-way valve). The valve must  be labeled.
  • send the water to irrigate landscape plantings
  • keep the water on the same property it is produced
  • have a maintenance manual
  • discharge greywater under a 2" cover of mulch, plastic shield, or stones.

The system must not:

  • contain diaper water
  • contain hazardous chemicals (such as from a home photo lab)
  • have pooling greywater or runoff
  • make greywater accessible to people or pets (such as in an open tub)
  • include a pump (except the washing machine's internal pump)
  • connect to the potable water supply
  • affect other parts of the building, such as the electrical or structural components.

Text from the new Chapter 16A of the California Plumbing Code: Clothes Washer System System

A clothes washer system system in compliance with all of the following is exempt from the construction permit specified in Section 108.4.1 and may be installed or altered without a construction permit:

  1.   If required, notification has been provided to the Enforcing Agency regarding the proposed location and installation of a graywater irrigation or disposal system. Note: A city, county, or city and county or other local government may, after a public hearing and
    enactment of an ordinance or resolution, further restrict or prohibit the use of graywater systems.
  2. The design shall allow the user to direct the flow to the irrigation or disposal field or the building sewer. The direction control of the graywater shall be clearly labeled and readily accessible to the user.
  3. The installation, change, alteration or repair of the system does not include a potable water connection or a pump and does not affect other building, plumbing, electrical or mechanical components including structural features, egress, fire-life safety, sanitation, potable water supply piping or accessibility. Note: The pump in a clothes washer shall not be considered part of the graywater system.
  4. The graywater shall be contained on the site where it is generated.
  5. Graywater shall be directed to and contained within an irrigation or disposal field.
  6. Ponding or runoff is prohibited and shall be considered a nuisance.
  7. Graywater may be released above the ground surface provided at least two (2) inches (51 mm) of mulch, rock, or soil, or a solid shield covers the release point. Other methods which provide equivalent separation are also acceptable.
  8. Graywater systems shall be designed to minimize contact with humans and domestic pets.
  9. Water used to wash diapers or similarly soiled or infectious garments shall not be used and shall be diverted to the building sewer.
  10. Graywater shall not contain hazardous chemicals derived from activities such as cleaning car parts washing greasy or oily rags, or disposing of waste solutions from home photo labs or similar hobbyist or home occupational activities.
  11. 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.
  12. An operation and maintenance manual shall be provided. Directions shall indicate the manual is to remain with the building throughout the life of the system and indicate that upon change of ownership or occupancy, the new owner or tenant shall be notified the structure contains a graywater system.

Systems that can follow these guidelines are the laundry to landscape system

The washing machine system project is a system that follows the guidelines listed above.