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Drought Emergency: More South Bay Residents Turn To Graywater Systems To Save Water And Their Plants

CUPERTINO (KPIX 5) – As South Bay water officials ask everyone to cut back 15% because of the drought, more are turning to graywater to save water and their plants at the same time.

According to the most recent data from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the South Bay has steadily decreased water usage since the start of summer.

Water usage in 2021, compared to 2019:
March 25%
April 20%
May 9%
June 0%
July -6%

The steady decline likely coincides with increased media coverage of worsening drought, according to SCVWD spokesperson Matt Keller.

In June, the district imposed a mandatory 15% reduction of 2019 usage for all customers. According to Keller, the early data shows an encouraging trend.

"People have responded really well during the last drought," said Keller. "This drought will eventually come to an end. We don't want to go back to the old ways of using water. We want to be saving water and conserving water and make that a way of life here in Santa Clara County."

The district still has ample funding for conservation programs, including its Graywater Rebate, which refunds up to $400 to homeowners who install qualifying systems.

So-called "Laundry to Landscape" systems have gained in popularity in recent years, with its relatively simple design that can typically be installed in a weekend by DIY-minded homeowners, with no permit required.

Sherri Stein recently installed the system in her Cupertino home, which features 1-inch diameter purple pipes, and a valve to divert the waste water from the washing machine from flowing into sewer system, and instead into the front yard. Special sodium-free soap must be used.

The graywater flows into multiple black PVC boxes nestled into the ground, spaced several feet apart. The water is captured by mulch and dispersed across the area. A tour of Stein's fruit trees showed a promising crop of lemons and plums.

"It's really good because my trees are healthy, and they're producing beautifully. I don't have to figure out how to water them, so it's just happening. I mean I'm doing two things at the same time. That's pretty cool. It's a no brainer," Stein told KPIX 5.

Outdoor water use makes up the majority of consumption, according to Keller. Even more graywater can be saved with professionally installed systems connected to showers and bathroom sinks, but they are more costly and also require permits.

The average laundry-to-landscape home system can save 4,600 to 15,000 gallons per year.

"That is a lot of water! We live in a climate where every drop of water saved is so essential, not only to your own home, but also to the community itself," said Justin Burks, Senior Water Conservation Specialist.

To learn more about graywater systems click here:


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