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Gray Area in Colorado Law Preventing CU-Boulder From Using Graywater System at LEED Platinum Dorm

The University of Colorado’s new $46.6 million, 131,000-square-foot Williams Village North dormitory in Boulder is the largest of its size (500 residents, pictured) in the nation to earn LEED Platinum from USGBC. But its $230,000 graywater system – which recycles water from showers and sinks through the dorm’s toilets, and could save the dorm over one million gallons of water annually – can’t be turned on by CU-Boulder officials because of Colorado state law, which generally prohibits graywater systems from being used unless they’re isolated from public areas (like one at Denver International Airport, which supplies a sprinkler system on fields that are closed off to the public).

Earlier this year, a bill that would have given municipalities greater control over regulating graywater systems (House Bill 12-1003) stalled in committee, though it was supported by Boulder County. Still, CU may be able operate the Williams Village North system through an exemption in HB 09-1129 that allows graywater pilot programs. But “the law is not clear, frankly,” David Akers, deputy director of the water quality control division for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told And it would still take at least a year for Boulder officials to qualify their system through the pilot program.

This story is another interesting example of how advanced building technologies can bump up against pre-existing regulations. It emphasizes again that project teams – which must frequently sign contracts that require their work or services to comply with all applicable laws, codes, and regulations – need to take those obligations seriously, particularly on projects where their scope includes green building components.

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