Arizona Expands Reuse Options for Graywater

In January, new Arizona regulations took effect expanding the use of reclaimed water to meet various demands including, under limited circumstances, human consumption.

It’s no surprise reclaiming water is a focus of attention in one of the nation’s driest states. The effort has been underway for several years. For example, the governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Water Sustainability was formed in 2009 and issued its final report in 2010. Nor is the work complete.

In its introduction to the rule approved last November, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality says it will make other modifications to water rules in the future. This staged approach will allow people to adjust to changes, enable them to make comments that improve rules gradually, and will inspire actions now instead of years from now, which may be the case if all the rules were modified in one giant step. In particular, the department writes, permits for graywater reuse are now seldom used, and by changing those regulations now, the department hopes to spur increased use and innovation.

Generally the rules forbid human consumption of reclaimed water unless the facility producing it obtains a special permit that requires submission of engineer-designed plans, an explanation of the technologies to be used, and proof of the concept from a pilot project.

Graywater rules were altered to allow private residential reuse for a flow of less than 400 gpd under certain conditions. Among those are use only on the property for watering lawns, gardens, or composting; prohibiting human contact with soil watered with graywater; and prohibiting the inclusion of water used to wash diapers or other similarly soiled garments because disinfection is too complicated for home systems.

Reclaimed water now accounts for 3 percent of Arizona’s total demand. The cities of Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert have water reclamation programs to replace potable water with a nonpotable source to irrigate golf courses, landscaping and other green spaces. The cities also recharge aquifers with reclaimed water. Another water reclamation plant owned by several municipalities reclaims water for a variety of uses including cooling at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

Some municipalities are working creatively to educate the public about potable reuse. The Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department won a $250,000 prize to use recycled wastewater for brewing craft beers. About 30 breweries competed in the event held in September 2017, and the winner was the Dragoon Brewery of Tucson for its Clear Water Pilsner.

Head brewer Eric Greene told KGUN-TV that he was originally shocked when the water was delivered, even though it had gone through multiple stages of processing to remove all contaminants including pharmaceuticals.

“It tastes perfect,” he says. “There is nothing in this water.”


Beginning in January, property owners in six counties must have their septic systems inspected as part of a sale. The rule from the Central Michigan District Health Department was sent to the boards of Arenac, Clare, Gladwin, Isabella, Osceola, and Roscommon counties. All are in the north-central part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

The rule was the result of about a year of debate over the need for such a change. It began when E. coli contamination was found in an area river, reports The Morning Sun in Alma, Michigan. There are some exceptions in the rule, such as for foreclosures, property transfers among immediate family members, and demolition of the structure served by the system.

Real estate agents opposed the rule, saying the problem was not proven and the solution would be a burden for buyers and sellers of affected properties. A number of real estate agents suggested changes to the rule. The health department says similar ordinances in other state communities have led to the identification and repair of thousands of failing onsite systems.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has estimated that at any given time, at least 10 percent of the state’s 1.2 million onsite systems are failing.


The Adams County Health Department is asking residents to voluntarily sign up for onsite wastewater system inspections.

Inspections are part of an operation and maintenance program that requires sanitarians check all onsite systems to ensure they are functioning properly and not impairing the water quality of streams and lakes, reports the Ledger Independent of Maysville, Kentucky.

The county will also issue permits for operation and maintenance. For alternative treatment systems and those with aeration, permits will be issued for two years. Sand filter systems will be inspected every five years, and those with leach lines or drainfields will be inspected every 10 years. Inspections will cost $50.


Mower County revised its ordinances in December to allow more advanced treatment technologies. The action helped the owner of an apartment building and may provide help to other property owners.

The county voted to allow what Minnesota classifies as Type IV systems. Those have additional pre- or post-treatment equipment. Examples are the microFAST systems from Bio-Microbics and those from Hydro-Action.

Jason Korfhage, who owns a 20-unit apartment building in a rural township, asked for the change, reports the Austin Daily Herald in Austin, Minnesota. The mound system serving his building has never worked properly and now is failing, and he says the use of a Type IV system would provide a long-term fix for his property. About 25 other property owners in the area have failing systems.

While the state allows Type IV systems, they were prohibited by the county. Officials say the primary reason for this was a lack of staff to monitor the systems.


The family of a boy who drowned in a septic tank has filed a lawsuit against two contractors for the city of Jacksonville.

Three-year-old Amari Harley died Oct. 22 after he wandered away from a family birthday party at a city park and fell into a tank on the park grounds. His family believes he removed the tank’s plastic lid and then fell in. Since then, the city has replaced all plastic lids with concrete lids, reports WTLV-TV news in Jacksonville.

The lawsuit claims Environmental Remediation Services and A1 Septic Service were negligent because they failed to register the tank properly, failed to supervise their employees, and failed to report the condition of the tank lid. A statement from the family’s attorney says the city knew of the risk because it had received reports that the tank lid was not secured.

New York

In keeping with the efforts to clean up the nearshore waters of Suffolk County, the Southampton Village Board approved a law to require advanced onsite systems for homes.

The law, which takes effect in March, requires an advanced system for new construction, or a remodeling project with an increase in the number of bedrooms, on properties near a body of water. Advanced systems will also be required if a property owner plans substantial changes to an existing system. The systems used must be those approved by the county Health Department.

Suffolk County occupies the eastern tip of Long Island and includes several wealthy communities. Local leaders and others are concerned about the amount of nitrogen flowing into the ocean from cesspools, which are a common method of wastewater treatment in the area. 

South Dakota

A former county official convicted for violating wastewater rules will have a new trial.

George Ferebee was found guilty last fall of having a septic system that lacked an operating permit. County ordinances require systems to be pumped, inspected, and issued permits regularly, reports the Rapid City Journal. Ferebee comes from Hill City in the Black Hills and served as a commissioner for Pennington County. His term ended Dec. 31.

After a trial, Ferebee was found guilty and ordered to pay a $200 fine. At his trial, he says his property is exempt because it totals 250 acres, and the ordinance exempts holdings of more than 40 acres. The state says his property is comprised of four parcels and the system is on a lot of about 12 acres.

State law allows people to appeal verdicts from the magistrate court to circuit court. Ferebee did that, claiming there were errors of law before and possibly during trial. A judge agreed there were grounds to reconsider the case and scheduled a new trial for May.


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