Supervisor Scott Wiener, who's often accused of being in the pocket of developers, has just proposed an aggressive, drought-conscious piece of legislation that would require all new developments in particular the huge and dense ones going in around SoMa, Pier 70, and Parkmerced to install grey water systems that would recycle sink and bath water for use in flushing toilets and watering lawns. As the Chronicle reports, at least one residential developer (micro-unit specialist Patrick Kennedy) is freaking out at how much this could cost him.
The proposed legislation would be the first of its kind in the country, and is an immediate way to address California's precarious water situation and one that should probably be adopted across the state, but for reasons of cost, profit, and lack of liberalism probably won't until it's too late.
But as another residential developer, Michael Yarne, says, "The idea that in this age we are still using Hetch Hetchy water to flush toilets or irrigate landscaping is absurd. The challenge is how do you bridge over to such a system that allows the development community to afford those costs." Yarne says he's already considering a grey-water system for the 900-unit development he's working on in India Basin.
Grants from the SF PUC currently help developers offset those costs, if they voluntarily install grey-water systems. But it's unclear if those grants will continue if this legislation passes.
Wiener's proposal would also set a new city policy requiring grey water for all city irrigation, and hosing of public spaces (and fountains?), and could potentially save millions of gallons of fresh water a day.