The Non-potable Water Program creates a streamlined process for new commercial, multi-family, and mixed-use developments in San Francisco to collect, treat, and reuse alternate water sources for toilet flushing, irrigation and other non-potable uses. Established through an ordinance adopted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in September 2012, this program establishes guidelines for developers interested in installing non-potable water systems in buildings and local regulations to ensure appropriate water quality standards. In October 2013, the Ordinance was amended to allow for buildings to share treated alternate water sources for non-potable applications.
In a dense, urban center like San Francisco, the use of onsite alternate water sources is a key strategy for expanding potable water savings. This includes a range of strategies from rainwater harvesting for irrigation to blackwater treatment and reuse for toilet flushing, both of which are incorporated into the new SFPUC Headquarters (525 Golden Gate Ave). Several other developments in San Francisco are also operating or are in the process of installing a non-potable water system. For more information about these developments, please see the San Francisco’s Non-Potable Water System Projects case studies.
Innovation in Urban Water Systems
On May 29-30, 2014, a dedicated group of water agencies, public health departments, and research institutions from across North America met in San Francisco to discuss onsite water treatment systems at the Innovation in Urban Water Systems Meeting. Using the experiences shared from those organizations present at the Meeting, the group developed the “Blueprint for Onsite Water Systems” to serve as a how-to guide for communities interested in implementing onsite treatment programs. Please visit the Innovation in Urban Water Systems webpage to find out more information about the meeting and participating agencies.
Do the requirements apply to me?
Installation of an onsite non-potable water system is voluntary. However, if you choose to install a system on your property, then the requirements of the Non-potable Water Program apply to you.
Non-potable water systems must include the required level of backflow protection as set forth by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Cross-Connection Control Program. Please see Required Levels of Backflow Protection for Non-potable Water Systems.
Non-potable Water At a Glance
To encourage the reuse of water generated onsite to expand water savings and further diversify our water supply portfolio.
Who Must Comply?
Anyone who installs and operates an onsite non-potable water system.
Health Code, Article 12C;
Rules and Regulations
September 11, 2012
See the Non-potable Water Program Factsheet and Guidebook.
Non-potable Water Program
How do I comply?
Engage SFPUC early on in your process by completing the Non-potable Project Water Budget Application. From here, the SFPUC can provide technical and regulatory guidance to help your project move forward including the following:
- Non-potable water calculators that will help estimate your project’s potable and non-potable water demands as well as the availability of onsite water sources. The SFPUC has developed a single-site calculator and a district-scale calculator.
- Step-by-step Guidebook on the permitting process.
- Grant program that will provide up to $250,000 for projects over 100,000 square foot in size implementing on-site reuse to replace at least 1,000,000 gallons per year of the project's potable water use; or up to $500,000 for district-scale projects that consist of two or more parcels that share treated alternate water sources and replace at least 3,000,000 gallons per year of the project’s potable water use.
The proper operation and maintenance of such systems are critical to protect public health and the City’s drinking water system and requires permits from both the Department of Public Health and the Department of Building Inspection.
What are non-potable water sources?
Alternate sources of water that can be used in an onsite non-potable water system are:
- Rainwater – precipitation collected from roofs or other manmade above grade surfaces
- Stormwater – precipitation collected from at or below grade surfaces
- Graywater – bathroom sinks, showers, and washing machines
- Blackwater – graywater, kitchen sinks and toilets
- Foundation Drainage – water that floods basements
- Other sources as approved by SFDPH
Please see the program resources listed below for links to the Application, SFDPH Rules and Regulations for Non-Potable Water Reuse, and other useful documents.
If you have questions or need additional assistance, please email email@example.com.
These resources are available to help you comply with San Francisco’s Non-potable Water requirements: