If you live in a state with an existing greywater code that allows for simple, affordable systems, focus your efforts at getting a streamlined permitting process and working through barriers people encounter when they try to install a permitted system. If your state has had a recent state code change you can work to gain buy-in and implementation at the local level. Go through the permitting process yourself, or work an ally in your town, for example a green-minded council member or someone in the water agency. Work with the permitting agency (eg. building department) to create a simple permit application and check-list so the process is easier for future systems.
In states without a greywater code you’ll need to focus efforts at the state level: local regulators are hesitant to allow anything not explicitly allowed by the state.
Keep in mind that many local inspectors and health officials have no direct experience or training with greywater systems and their job is to both protect public health and to protect their agency from liability. Because of this, they may not be enthusiastic about permitting greywater systems if there are not many existing permitted systems in their jurisdiction. Even in states with “greywater friendly codes,” like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and (for some types of systems) California, officials may not be familiar with the code. In your conversations with your local officials, it may be helpful to share permitted project examples from nearby places.
In states without codes, or with restrictive codes, the vast majority of people who want a greywater system install it without a permit. It is possible to ask for an “Alternative methods and materials” permit, which is intended to allow for new or alternative systems not covered under the current code. You could offer your “experimental” system to be monitored by the city, which could help them learn more about greywater systems and feel more comfortable allowing future systems.
If you need a permit for your project it’s better to contact the building department first, and explain to them what you’re trying to do and find out their concerns, that way you can present a design that will address their concerns.
See the Code and Policy page for more information.