Recycled water plumbed to above ground irrigation system

Recycled water plumbed to an above ground flexible irrigation system.

UPDATE: 9/23/2016 – This type of connection is illegal for residential customers obtaining recycled water from DSRSD’s fill station. Users will lose fill station privileges by connecting their recycled water tank to any in-ground irrigation. This counts a violation of their use agreement.

It has come up so many times in the past, homeowners want to connect their recycled water tanks to their irrigation system to quickly get water on the plants they want. Even if you’re a DIY-er with irrigation system experience, per your signed user agreement – you are not allowed to connect your recycled water tank into hard-piped or buried irrigation systems.

There is even an article written about it, titled “Plumbing Recycled Water to on-site Irrigation – What you need to know – it is ILLEGAL to do it!

But yet there is still the appeal, hauling and unloading recycled water takes a lot of time, why not just hook it up?

We spoke with Ben Glickstein, Community Affairs Representative at East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) about their stance when it comes to homeowners wishing to plumb recycled water to their irrigation system.

“Residential [recycled water] fill stations are a relatively new undertaking, which our neighboring districts put into action as part of their response to an historic drought last summer,” Glickstein said. “It is much more challenging to oversee the usage of recycled water by residents than it is with our regular customers, such as city parks and factories.”

EBMUD doesn’t operate a residential recycled water fill station, so they are not the source of recycled water, but two other neighboring agencies do – Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (Central San) in Martinez and Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) in Pleasanton.

“For residents collecting recycled water from neighboring districts (Central San or DSRSD) and applying it in the EBMUD service area; our current stance is not to allow the introduction of recycled water into a home irrigation system, even with the steps described in your article,” Ben continued.

Those steps include:

  • notifying your water agency of your intent and getting permission before connecting,
  • install a backflow preventer immediately after the water meter at your house,
  • complete separation of your irrigation system from the domestic water system,
  • cross connection test conducted by a certified backflow/cross connection control specialist,
  • and coverage test to ensure recycled water is applied only in the intended areas.

How should a homeowner irrigate their yard with recycled water?

Hand-held hose attachment.

Hand-held hose attachment.

Hand-application is the safest way to ensure that residential users aren’t inadvertently putting drinking water quality at risk.”

“In general, tertiary treated recycled water will always be better suited to large single-point users than to residential applications. Large non-residential recycled water projects can more efficiently offset large amounts of potable water use, saving enough potable water for residents to use unrestricted.”

What would happen if EBMUD discovered a customer had hooked their tank up to their irrigation system?

“If EBMUD identified that a customer had been feeding recycled water into an irrigation system in our service area, we would put a stop to it by retracting their recycled water truck permit (if EBMUD were the source), or by asking Central San or DSRSD to retract their fill station permit if the source was a neighboring district. We would then investigate for any signs of cross-connection or backflow, and take any necessary mitigation or reporting measures.”

Anything else you would like to add?

“As our program and those of our partner agencies develop, we may someday be able to accommodate residential recycled water irrigation systems. But each situation is unique, so customers should always contact us before making any modifications.”

If you’re a customer of EBMUD, the best number to call for recycled water inquiries is (510) 287-1658.



Do you have questions – ask in the comments!