House panel OKs graywater measure

DENVER Colorado could save enough water for 170,000 new suburban families if all new construction included systems to recycle bath and laundry water, a water expert testified Monday.

Colorado is one of the only states in the arid West that doesnt allow the domestic use of graywater used water from sinks, washing machines, showers and baths.

But that could be about to change. A graywater bill passed a House panel unanimously Monday.

A year made a big difference for the bill and its sponsor, Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins.

His bill died last year on a party-line vote in the House Agriculture Committee. This year, hes the chairman of the committee, and his current bill, House Bill 1044, got support even from Republicans who were critics last year.

Lawmakers from downstream districts had opposed the bill, because they depend on wastewater from cities to fill their streams.

Ive done my utmost to assure the water-rights holders and users of the state of Colorado that in moving forward with graywater, there will be no injury of senior water rights, Fischer said.

His bill calls on the state Water Quality Control Commission to pass rules about the acceptable use of graywater. Water from dishwashers and toilets would not be allowed to be reused.

Colorado State University Prof. Larry Roesner has been pushing Colorado to expand its graywater use for 10 years. He said graywater makes up 30 percent of household water use water that currently goes down the drain. If new homes and businesses all used graywater systems, the state could save 85,000 acre-feet a year, he said, enough for about 170,000 suburban families.

Fischer got votes from some of the same Republicans who killed his bill last year, including Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose.

Coram and others said Fischer put opponents at ease by making sure his bill wont hurt people with water rights, especially on the Western Slope.

I commend you for reaching across the west side, Coram said.

The bill has several more votes to pass in the House and Senate.

jhanel@durangoherald.com