Long Beach is starting a pilot program to reuse the liquid known as greywater that will allow select families to use washing machine water for gardening and landscaping.
Instead of letting it drain out to sewers and the street, people can recycle water from washing machine rinses into gardens. It's not drinkable, but it's cleaner than sewage water. Greywater systems connected to laundry control the flow with valves and divert water to sewers when people use bleach.
Three dozen families will test systems like these around the city of Long Beach. California's plumbing code formerly banned recycled water, or made it really hard for people divert it for their use. But interest in greywater systems is rising rapidly as freshwater supplies dwindle. Long Beach officials have pointed out that recycling water like this could help homeowners use from 14 to 40 percent less water.
Volunteers whose yards are level with or lower than their washing machines participated in a lottery that chose the pilot households. Long Beach is urging those households to use the water on native plants.