Rainwater In My Washing Machine – FINALLY!

I am happy to report that we finally received approval to hook up (again) our washing machine to our rainwater harvesting system.  It’s been a 10 month ordeal of emailing and waiting and emailing and starting over and waiting (you get the picture). 

In my previous post I linked to the new Dallas rainwater harvesting guidelines.  Now I received the following from Mark Daniels, the acting Chief Plumbing Inspector, when I asked if an RPZ valve fulfilled the intent of the guidelines:

We find the “RPZ valve” acceptable for this individual case and consider, with your agreement and acceptance, that your required plumbing inspections are complete and this permit is in final status. There are no other actions required on your part.

There you have it!

PS:  mind you that I’ve had a plumbing inspection/permit since last April, so I really wasn’t waiting on a permit of any sort – just trying to do the right thing and pave the way for others who want to use rainwater in Dallas.

City of Dallas & Rainwater Use: What the heck is going on?

Dallas Logo

I’ve been extremely patient with the City of Dallas.  We have been trying to obtain the final regulation/code that governs the use of harvested rainwater in a washing machine for eight months.  Our rainwater contractor presented information to the City twice early this past spring.  And now, in January, it seems that we’re not any closer to having the regulations than we were in April of last year.

Lonnie Erwin, the City’s Chief Plumbing Inspector, informed me in an email back in August that we would have new regs “after October”.  While technically that could mean 10 years after October, I assumed it meant November-ish.  My last email to him (and to City of Dallas Chief Inspector Zaida Basora) dated 11/17 was answered in December by someone informing me that Mr. Erwin was no longer with the City of Dallas. 

I was also told that Mr. Erwin left behind ZERO information regarding our request and our presentations.  NO ONE had been working on our request for months!  Thank you, Mr. Erwin!

Theoretically someone from the City Plumbing Inspection office is working on the request now, but it’s been almost a month since I’ve heard from him.

What should I do now?!?!

Sustainable Sites (LEED SS Category)

As I mentioned before, our lot is what sold the original house – we love it.  It’s about .4 acres and very deep (about 250 feet deep).  LEED awards points for taking care of the land and preparing it to be water-wise and safe.  Here’s how the points worked for us:

We’re required to do basic erosion control during construction.  We investigated using burlap and shredded wood, but were told that the City of Dallas inspectors didn’t like that method, so we went with traditional plastic with wooden stakes.  We weren’t thrilled, but given the fits the inspectors had already given us during the foundation phase of the project we decided not to tempt fate further.

There are several points for basic landscaping design and techniques.  We have a landscape architect, Jim Martinez, engaged in the project who has a ton of experience with drought-friendly yards.   He was able to design the yard using native and adapted plants.  The LEED calculation lead us to expect a 66% reduction in irrigation demand, and that gave us a whopping 6 points.  That’s a lot in LEED-speak!  We left one point on the table – a point that would have required us to remove a large privet hedge.  I know some folks would pay money to get rid of their privets, but these had been on this property for more than 50 years.  They house the breeding site for our lightening bugs, provide cover for birds and other wildlife, and provide a year-round noise cushion between us, the neighbor’s pool, and Love Field traffic.  We just couldn’t bring ourselves to rip them out. 

French Drain installation

Other points can be earned by managing surface water.  Here are some of the design features we used to avoid as much stormwater runoff as possible:

  • Rainwater falling on 100% of our roof will be directed into two 2500 gallon cisterns to be used for irrigation and clothes washing.  I’ll talk more about this feature in a later post…we’re very excited about it!
  • Swales (or berms) in the back and front yard to create rainwater gardens that will capture and hold rainwater while it soaks into the ground.
  • French drains (being installed in the photo above) to direct water from the uphill side of the property around the structures and into the swales.  
  • Driveway runners versus a full concrete driveway – we’re creating concrete ribbons for our front yard drive with grass growing in between.  These look a bit old-fashioned, but they create a space for more rainwater percolation versus the rainwater running into the street.
  • Permiable driveway in the back of the house – it will be gravel so rainwater will soak directly into the ground versus running off of a concrete drive.
  • Patios made of poured concrete pads with space between them (versus solid slabs) to allow rainwater to run between them and soak into the ground
  • A lot of trees and bushes being added into the landscape to hold the dirt and reduce natural erosion

Other points we’re getting are for using non-toxic pest controls – things like making sure you don’t plant new plants within 24″ of the structures (we actually have a 24-36″ band of gravel around the structures, so no plants will be planted close to the house or garage) and sealing all openings with calk or wire mesh. 

We didn’t earn points for “Compact Development”.  The denser the population the less impact on Mother Nature, so LEED provides credit for denser developments.  Because we live in an area with lot sizes from .25 to 1.25 acres we were just out of luck.  To be eligible for points, you’re required to have a maximum lot size equivalent of 1/7 of an acre (and the smaller the better)….oh well!

Expected Sustainable Sites points:  16 out of a possible 22.