In September 2012, the City and County of San Francisco adopted the Onsite Water Reuse for Commercial, Multi-family, and Mixed Use Development Ordinance. Commonly known as the Non-potable Water Ordinance, it added Article 12C to the San Francisco Health Code, allowing for the collection, treatment, and use of alternate water sources for non-potable applications. In October 2013, the ordinance was amended to allow district-scale water systems consisting of two or more buildings sharing non-potable water.
In July 2015, the ordinance was further amended to require the following as of November 1, 2016:
- that all new buildings in San Francisco of 250,000 square feet or more of gross floor be constructed, operated, and maintained using available alternate water sources for toilet and urinal flushing and irrigation;
- that all new buildings in San Francisco of 40,000 square feet or more of gross floor area prepare water budget calculations;
- that subdivision approval requirements include compliance with Article 12C of the San Francisco Health Code; and
- facilities constructed in accordance with Article 12C of the San Francisco Health Code and located in public rights-of-way are subject to approval as minor encroachments and exempt from payment of public right-of-way occupancy assessment fees.
Several developments in San Francisco, including SFPUC Headquarters (525 Golden Gate Ave.) are 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.
The SFPUC grant assistance program for alternate water source projects is closed. Please check our web page in July 2017 for updates.
To provide assistance to projects subject to the Stormwater Management Ordinance (SMO) and Non-potable Ordinance (NPO), the SFPUC developed a Submittal Requirements Factsheet and an Interim Guidance Factsheet.
Step 1: Submit a Water Budget Application to the SFPUC
The Water Budget Applications and Water Use Calculators for single-building and district-scale non-potable water systems are located below. The Water Use Calculator must be completed and submitted with your project's Water Budget Application.
Step 2: Submit a Non-potable Implementation Plan to the SFPUC (applicable only to district-scale non-potable water systems)
The Non-potable Implementation Plan must be prepared in accordance with the following checklist and the Guidelines and Rules for District-scale Non-potable Water Systems.
Step 3: Submit an Engineering Report to SFDPH
The Engineering Report must prepared by a registered professional engineer. Rainwater harvesting projects for non-spray irrigation, and foundation drainage or gray water projects for subsurface irrigation, do not need to submit an Engineering Report.
Step 4: Obtain Building Permits and Construct the Onsite Water System
SFDPH approval of the Engineering Report and a Plan Check by the Plumbing Inspection Division (PID) are required before PID will issue a plumbing permit. Please contact PID at (415) 558-6570 with questions about the required Plan Check.
Step 5: Obtain Encroachment Permits from DPW (if applicable)
Non-potable water systems with infrastructure located within the public right-of-way are required to obtain an Encroachment Permit from the San Francisco Public Works Department (DPW).
Step 6: Schedule a Cross-Connection Test
Non-potable water systems must include the required level of backflow prote ction 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.
Step 7: Obtain a Permit to Operate from SFDPH
A Construction Certification letter and successful Cross Connection test are required prior to operation. Rainwater harvesting projects for non-spray irrigation, and foundation drainage or graywater projects for subsurface irrigation, do not need to obtain a Permit to Operate.
Step 8: Conduct Ongoing Monitoring, Reporting, and Inspections.
Ongoing monitoring is crucial to ensure the onsite water system is in proper working order. Operators report the results of the ongoing monitoring to SFDPH using the Discharge Monitoring Report form at the frequency identified in their Permit to Operate.
Innovation in Urban Water Systems
On May 29-30, 2014, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission hosted a dedicated group of water agencies, public health departments, and research institutions from across North America 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.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has also partnered with the U.S. Water Alliance to convene the National Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Non-potable Water Systems to advance best management practices to support the use of onsite non-potable water systems for individual buildings or at the local scale. The commission held their first meeting in San Francisco on December 14, 2016 to begin developing model state and federal guidance and policy frameworks to support local implementation of onsite non-potable water systems.
Please visit the Innovation in Urban Water Systems web page to find out more information about the meeting and participating agencies.
Non-potable Program Resources