In the News

Santa Cruz workshop teaches water-saving irrigation technique to residents
More than 20 people learn how to install greywater system

By Calvin Men, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 8/25/14

SANTA CRUZ — Shannon McCord wants to do her part to conserve water in the drought.

The Santa Cruz resident has a rain barrel to gather water and uses water collected from the sink and bathtub to water her garden. On Sunday, McCord added another tool to her drought-fighting arsenal: a laundry-to-landscape irrigation system.

"I just want to conserve as much water as possible," said McCord, 49.

She was one of roughly 20 people who met in the Westside for the Laundry to Landscape Installation Workshop. The three-hour class, which was sponsored by the Santa Cruz City Water Department, focused on the teaching concept behind greywater irrigation system and what's required to construct the system. Contrary to what many people believe, there isn't a permit required for simpler plumbing systems, said Nicole Douglas, an outreach specialist at Ecology Action, which was hosting the event.

"The California plumbing code was amended in 2010 so simple laundry-to-landscape systems do not need a permit and it makes it very easy for people to do," she said.

And how easy is it to install? While Douglas is not a professional plumber, the plumbing is easy enough that she was able to learn over time and subsequently instruct the workshop.

Other things the class taught was what soap to use (biodegradable soap) and how much water is lost from laundry loads (roughly 20 to 40 gallons). Douglas stressed the fact that people can eat food crops that are irrigated with greywater, just not root crops including onions and potatoes.

"However, crops that have the edible portion above ground are perfectly fine to eat," she said, providing examples like beans, corn and tomatoes.

After the class, attendees met at a Westside home for the hands-on portion, where they installed a system. The home was owned by Mark Ball, who attended the workshop and was thinking about installing a laundry irrigation system for about a year.

"I love gardening and this is a way that is environmentally reasonable to have those kinds of plants I want to use," he said.

Within an hour, the group had dug trenches for plants, molded wiring to protect from gophers, filled the trench with mulch and cut plastic tubing for irrigation.

Aptos resident Steve Miles, 69, was catching wastewater in the bathroom and kitchen to water his garden. But he plans to install a greywater irrigation system after Sunday's workshop, saying he was less intimidated and more encouraged.

"Any home owner should be able to get enough information together to do this," Miles said.

While the workshop is particularly relevant given the state's severe drought, Douglas said the workshops have been going on for years because of the environment in California.

"So the drought has been the silver lining in terms of making people aware of an underlying issue that's already been here and will always be here," Douglas said.

At the end of the day, the workshop aims to inspire people to bring the system into their own homes.

"The hope is that as many people as possible take this home and install the system," she said. "That this becomes the norm for people to have."

Upcoming Workshops

What: Workshops hosted by Ecology Action about water conservation

When: Varies

Details: Visit

© 2008-2013 scwd2 Desalination Program, All rights reserved.