esm223_18_Reference_Dirty Water_NYT_31May2007

esm223_18_Reference_Dirty Water_NYT_31May2007 - The Dirty...

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The Dirty Water Underground By GREGORY DICUM New York Times, May 31, 2007 OAKLAND, Calif. Jamie Kripke for The New York Times Outside the Law Cleo Woelfle-Erskine has installed illegal gray water systems like the one at Haut House. LAURA ALLEN’S modest gray house in the Oakland flatlands would give a building inspector nightmares. Jerry-built pipes protrude at odd angles from the back and sides of the nearly century-old house, running into a cascading series of bathtubs filled with gravel and cattails. White PVC pipe, buckets, milk crates and hoses are strewn about the lot. Inside, there is mysterious — and illegal — plumbing in every room. Ms. Allen, 30, is one of the Greywater Guerrillas, a team focused on promoting and installing clandestine plumbing systems that recycle gray water — the effluent of sinks, showers and washing machines — to flush toilets or irrigate gardens. To her, this house is as much an emblem of her belief system as a home. Although gray water use is legal in California, systems that conform to the state’s complicated code tend
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to be very expensive, and Ms. Allen and her fellow guerrilla, Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, are out to persuade the world that water recycling can be a simple and affordable option, as well as being a morally essential one. They are part of a larger movement centered in the West — especially in arid regions like Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California — that includes both groups that operate within the law and ones that skirt it. The goal is the reuse of home gray water as a way to live within the region’s ecological means. Using their own experience and contributions from others, they have just published a do-it-yourself guide to gray water systems that is also a manifesto for the movement, “Dam Nation: Dispatches From the Water Underground.” “A lot of people that care about water try to conserve it,” said Ms. Allen, an elementary- school teacher who installed several gray water systems after buying this home — which she named the “Haut House,” for House of Appropriate Urban Technology — four years ago with a housemate. “But this is about changing the way you interact with it.” Mr. Woelfle-Erskine, a writer and teacher who lives on a houseboat with a gray water system in San Pablo, Calif., 10 miles north, added, “It’s about trying to use resources to their full potential and interact with ecosystems in a beneficial way.” Jamie Kripke for The New York Times Cleo Woelfle-Erskine. In 1994, California became the first state to establish guidelines for gray water use — as
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esm223_18_Reference_Dirty Water_NYT_31May2007 - The Dirty...

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