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Laundry to landscape: California's drought solution?

Graywater's drought fix
Graywater's drought fix

As California faces a historic drought, more residents are looking to "graywater treatment" as a fairly easy way to cut their water use. The process takes used water from sinks, tubs and laundry washers, mildly treats it within the same building, then reuses the water on a property's landscape.

The process, sometimes dubbed "showers to flowers" or "laundry to landscape," is mostly used in the construction of single-family homes. The process to install a graywater system in existing infrastructure can be complicated and expensive.

"There's a lot of proposals, but nothing comes close to a graywater irrigation system," Steve Bilson, CEO of ReWater Systems, told CNBC. "You've got it all year-round. No one's going to make you stop doing your laundry and it's extremely cost effective."

A woman installs a diverter valve for a greywater system at a new home in Los Angeles.
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The process can cost around $5,000 in a newly built home. While in existing homes, a simple version connected to a washer can cost about $2,500.

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Bilson said the cost-savings is often realized within several years after upfront costs. Most recently, his company ReWater Systems, has been focusing on the construction of high end luxury homes in places like Malibu, California.

The Natural Resources Defense Council uses a graywater irrigation system in its Santa Monica office.

"Graywater is one way to reduce water since you're using water that otherwise would have gone to waste," said Steve Fleischli, the council's water program director.

Overall, Fleischli said this year, especially with Gov. Jerry Brown's recent announcement statewide cutbacks, residents are more conscious of their water usage.

"A lot of people are taking note and seeing there's a lot that they can do that they can help out," he said.

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Correction: This version corrects the spelling of ReWater and Fleischli.