Greening Oregon with Greywater

Though Oregon is wet much of the year, the summer dry season constrains public water supplies and limits streamflows. In many communities, like Portland, water demand exceeds surface water supplies, so supplemental groundwater must be pumped to meet our needs. Peak irrigation demand for agriculture and landscaping coincides with the driest time of year: July, August, and September.

Water is heavy! And pumping water from wells to our homes, and back to wastewater treatment plants uses lots of energy, contributing  to our carbon footprint. By saving water you can help mitigate climate change and protect instream river flows. One great way to do this is reuse your household greywater for summer irrigation.  Through household water conservation like greywater re-use, you will help safeguard our rivers, get a second use from your water, and lower your bills. A well-designed system can ease your summer watering workload since you will be automatically watering your plants when you do laundry and take a shower!


Greywater reuse was legalized in Oregon in 2012, but relatively few greywater permits have been claimed so far. All greywater systems require a permit from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to ensure that greywater is not spilling into waterways or neighboring yards. In certain communities, a second permit may be required by local building departments if you are altering a home’s plumbing system. For example, in Portland a “laundry to landscape” system does not alter the house’s plumbing, so you only need one permit from DEQ. However, if you redirect shower drain pipes to your yard, you will also need a City of Portland plumbing permit.

How to Get a Permit

In the state of Oregon you’ll need a permit for any greywater system from the DEQ. Here is the webpage for the permit info. In addition to their basic form, you’re required to submit additional information. We have created a standard plan for this info that is accepted by the DEQ. Download a blank Standard Plan form, and see an example of a completed form here. You will also need an Operations and Maintenance manual, see an example of one here.

Learn About Greywater

During summer of 2016 and 2017 Greywater Action, in partnership with Depave, Oregon Tradeswomen, and Recode put on a workshop series to teach homeowners and installers about greywater reuse. Funding for the workshops was provided by East and West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Over 150 individuals participated, and through the workshops we installed the first eight, permitted simple residential greywater systems in Portland. Over a typical summer, these eight greywater systems together save over 13,000 gallons of water.

In the Future…

We’ll hold occasional greywater workshops and tour of existing systems around Portland, as well as in other towns in Oregon. Sign up here if you’d like to get announcements for Oregon specific events.

Hire an Installer

In 2017, we trained a small group of landscape and plumbing professionals on greywater, including some who are available to help residential homeowners design and install their own systems. If you’re looking for a trained installer we list people in Oregon here.

More Information

Read about Ted Labbe’s graywater installation and recommended resources for Portlanders thinking about installing greywater systems.

Read more about Oregons’ graywater legalization process at Building Innovations Database here.

Check our some large scale greywater and blackwater projects in the Pacific Northwest