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San Francisco Health Network
Environmental Health

Helpful Links

San Francisco Health Code:

Article 12A Backflow

Article 12C Alternate Water

12C Rules and Regs (pdf)

SFDPH Fee Schedule

California Recycled Water Codes

Statutes (pdf)

Regulations (pdf)

Other Websites

SFPUC Non-Potable

SFDBI Plumbing

CA Dept Water Resources

Related Documents

Application Packet (pdf)

SFPUC Guidebook (pdf)

Engineering Report Instructions & Template (pdf)

Engineering Report Template (Word Template)

O&M Manual Template (Word Template)

O&M Manual Template (pdf version)

Backflow for SFHC 12C Systems (pdf)

Related Programs

Water Quality Home

Cross Connection Program

Alternate Water Source Systems


Program Background

The use of on-site alternate water sources such as rainwater harvesting for irrigation or blackwater treatment and reuse for toilet flushing is a critical component to management of our city's water portfolio.


Since 2012, the San Francisco Department of Public Health Environmental Health Branch (SFDPH-EH) has enforced Article 12C of the San Francisco Health Code to oversee the collection, treatment, and reuse of rainwater, stormwater, graywater and other alternate water sources for toilet flushing, irrigation and other non-potable uses in commercial, multi-family, mixed-use, and multi-parcel developments. In 2015, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors made these systems mandatory for certain buildings.


The permit process is a collaboration among SFDPH-EH, the SFPUC and the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection Plumbing Inspection Division (SFDBI - PID). Together these three agencies provide input and oversight on the design, construction, and operation of alternate water source systems. The permit process from project conceptualization to startup is summarized below. More details are described in the step-by-step guidebook available on the SFPUC website and SFDPH's Rules and Regulations for Alternate Water Source Systems (pdf).


Permit Process and Operational Requirements

A complete application packet contains forms and documents relevant to obtaining a permit for an Alternate Water Source system under Article 12C. Please contact if you require any individual forms or documents found in the packet.

The permitting process includes:



  2. Submit an Application for Permit to Operate Alternate Water Source System and Engineering Report along with the appropriate fee to SFDPH-EH for review and approval.
  3. Please refer to the Detailed Instructions for completing the Engineering Report, including sample tables for water quality design criteria.

  4. SFDPH-EH will issue a letter of approval to the DBI Plumbing Inspector.

  5. Submit Plumbing Plans to SFDBI Plumbing Inspection Division

  6. Construct System

  7. Submit to SFDPH-EH a Construction Certification Letter, a Treatment System Manager affidavit of Knowledge Skills and Abilities, a copy of the contract with the Certified Laboratory, and an Operations and Maintenance Manual (refer to the Rules and Regulations and find forms, examples and templates in the Application Packet; in addition a template is available for ensuring the Operations and Maintenance Manual contains all required elements.)

  8. Have a certified specialist complete a cross-connection test

  9. SFDPH-EH will issue a startup/temporary permit for a defined duration, followed by a final permit after demonstration of compliance with applicable laws, rules and guidance.

  10. Once a startup/temporary or final permit is issued, the Treatment System Manager conducts specified inspections and tests, submits routine monitoring and annual monitoring reports to SFDPH-EH, and communicates system malfunctions to SFDPH-EH in accordance with the rules and regulations and the permit requirements.

  11. To remain valid, the permit must be renewed by paying an annual license fee to the tax collector each year.

For questions or additional assistance, please email