A Former International Sailing Competitor Turned His Passion for Environmental Consciousness into a Water-Recycling Family Business

Uncharted waters.

  • Category
    Health, People
  • Written by
    Diane E. Barber
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

World-renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Buzz Boettcher, a sixth-generation Angeleno, has been a testament to those words for most of his life. 

Buzz grew up sailing in California. He competed in sailboat racing around the globe from 1966 to 2003 with regattas in Hawaii, the Mediterranean, Australia and England, among other locations. His accomplishments included qualifying for the Olympic trials in 1968 and numerous team victories. 

“I worked in the sailmaking business locally for many years,” he says. “As a result, I had the opportunity to race aboard many high-profile boats ranging in size from 25 to 83 feet with up to 16 crew members.” 

Learning how to conserve water while at sea proved paramount. That, combined with Buzz’s lifelong respect for the ocean and his affinity for being a steward of the environment, inspired him to start Water Recycling Systems (WRS) in the South Bay in 2007. WRS provides residential and commercial systems that capture and recycle stormwater from roof downspouts and grey water from showers, bathtubs, lavatory sinks and laundry machines. The water is repurposed for irrigation, flushing toilets, hose bib supplies, filling water features and other approved uses.  

“When I raced offshore, a crew of 10 people on a 70-foot boat could get by with 150 gallons of water for two weeks,” he shares. “Once ashore I discovered our family of four used 20,000 gallons of water in a month. That was when I thought there had to be a way to reuse one of our most vital natural resources.”

Although water recycling is a centuries-old practice, Buzz realized there was an opportunity to create something special that went way beyond placing a washing-machine hose through a dog door to water the lawn. He talked with people at the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) and many engineers in the process. The challenge was to develop a system that would pass inspection with LADBS, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and other local agencies. 

“My focus from the beginning of WRS has been to design and build systems that I call ‘street legal,’ that are in compliance with current environmental, building and health department regulations, which we have successfully done,” he explains.

According to Buzz and data that he collected from the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, the Los Angeles Basin has averaged 14.25 inches of rain annually for the past 100 years. When it rains, one inch of rainwater falling on a 2,000-square-foot roof will yield approximately 1,200 gallons of water. A four-person active family on average uses 400 gallons of water daily. 

“When I raced offshore, a crew of 10 people on a 70-foot boat could get by with 150 gallons of water for two weeks. Once ashore I discovered our family of four used 20,000 gallons of water in a month. That was when I thought there had to be a way to reuse one of our most vital natural resources.”

“When that family goes on vacation and is not generating grey water, our recycling system adds municipal water to keep things going. And on the flip side, if four people become eight people due to holiday guests, there is a contingency for grey water overage to be released into the sewer system.”

After watching and admiring from the sidelines for a while, Logan Boettcher rolled up his sleeves to work alongside his dad in tandem with his entertainment industry production career. “When I realized how hard Buzz was working and saw the impact of him giving back to the community by saving water, I wanted to be involved,” he says. “We all help each other in our family. I manage the project installations. My mom, Kathy, handles the administration side of the business, and my sister, Sloan, does the social media.” 

Collaboration with city and county officials is key to the company’s day-to-day operations. “L.A. County and the city of L.A. incorporated new building codes several years ago that require stormwater mitigation—and more municipalities are adopting them,” says Logan. “One of our great local accomplishments during the recent storms was filling a client’s tanks with 30,000 gallons of rainwater for a 60-unit complex in Redondo Beach. That water is being used to irrigate the entire mixed-use facility. In addition to conservation and function, aesthetics is also important—especially to homeowners. The systems we install above ground are visually appealing—particularly the sleek, state-of-the-art, grey-water Hydraloop system.” 

What began as a local sailor’s vision has become an essential water preservation service in the face of climate change and drought conditions. With a network of general contractors, subcontractors and vendors, WRS has expanded its services nationally. Notable projects have included the National Resources Defense Council, the city of Santa Monica, SpaceX, and residences for actors Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn as well as Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison. 

The Boettcher family hopes their efforts will both educate and inspire others to do their part in conserving our precious resources.