Sitting in front of a Colo. flag, a U.S. flag and the CSU banner in CSU’s Bioengineering building, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the final draft of House Bill 1044, approving the use of graywater in Colorado homes and businesses.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Hickenlooper said as he made the last swipe with his pen, “It’s a law.”
Graywater is the soapy debris-filled wastewater from laundry, baths, hand sinks and showers. Food waste and used toilet water are not included in the graywater supply, making it more sanitary for use in toilets and outdoors.
The bill to legally allow graywater use was first introduced in 2011, written in large part by CSU Professor of Engineering Larry Roesner and his colleague Sybil Sharvelle.
In 2012 the bill died following an election turnover, but was revived in 2013 and passed into the hands of Gov. Hickenlooper.
“There was just no recognition in the state statutes for graywater use,” said Colo. Rep. Randy Fischer, who worked extensively to pass the bill.
The new law will allow this used water to fill toilets and irrigate outdoor systems throughout the state, according to Sharvelle.
Although prior to this bill there were no laws in Colorado making graywater use illegal, there was no infrastructure to use it on a wider scale.
“The laws were very vague and it was left to cities and counties to decide how best to use (water supplies),” Sharvelle said.
Although buildings must be outfitted to use the system, it is a fairly straightforward process, Sharvelle said. The main component needed is a holding tank for the wastewater, which can be found in most home improvement stores.
According to Sharvelle, outdoor irrigation would use a drip system to prevent the wastewater from aerosolizing, making recycled water use safer for the general public.
The graywater use could also reduce the costs of treating water because it goes directly from laundry or sinks into a holding tank.
Sharvelle and Roesner’s research, some of which involved collecting and testing wastewater from Aspen Hall, shows that there are no problems using the water thus far. Although the water is not safe for drinking, it is safe for outdoor and toilet use.
The prospect of recycling water could be a blessing for drought seasons in Colorado. In urban areas, graywater can account for 30 percent of water consumption, according to Fischer.
“It is our most sacred responsibility as legislators to meet our water needs here in Colorado,” Fischer said.
According to Hickenlooper, the integration of graywater will reduce pollution and preserve national resources in our state.
“This is the kind of work that states and universities should be doing,” Hickenlooper said. “We have some of the most innovative approaches to graywater use.”
Collegian Senior Reporter Mariah Wenzel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org