We all have it, and most of us waste it. It is called greywater, and it is comprised of the water that comes from our laundry, sinks, showers and bathtubs. The water that flows down the drain and out of our homes. However, this is valuable water and people all over the globe are letting run away.
Statistics tells us that in the United Kingdom and the United States, the average person uses about 60 gallons of water per day to wash dishes, bathe and do laundry. This adds up to a tremendous amount of water that could be fairly easily repurposed. It is estimated that over one-half of all of the water used in homes could be recycled.
Indoor Water Usage Breakdown
Although water use varies from one home to the next, the numbers below represent an average size household use percentage.
- Toilets: 28%
- Washing machines: 22%
- Showers and baths: 19%
- Sinks: 16%
- Household leaks: 14%
In the past, state laws have seen the water from sinks, showers or washing machines as the same as that which comes from your toilet – sewage that requires treatment. Because of this, in some areas, greywater for irrigation has been illegal.
However, with more and more places on the planet facing water shortages, there is a shift in thought happening and a relaxing of codes. Policymakers are finally seeing the benefits of using greywater systems in the home, and these systems are steadily becoming more mainstream. This type of system has been in use for a long time by gardeners and off grid homesteaders – especially those living in dry climates where water is scarce.
Benefits of Greywater Systems
If you have been searching for a way to make your environmental footprint a wee bit smaller, installing a greywater system is a good place to start. Besides saving you a tremendous amount of money over time, greywater systems reduce demands on public water supplies and decrease the amount of wastewater entering sewers or on-site treatment systems.
If you have always dreamt of growing your own veggie garden (and you should), but you didn’t want enormous water bills, a greywater system is the answer.
Ways to Collect Greywater
Greywater collection systems range from simplistic to sophisticated, all doing the same job of repurposing household water waste. However, the more complex and expensive the system is, the more ways you can use the collected water. There are even systems that filter the water in such an advanced way that it can be consumed.
Laundry to Landscape
Next to toilet water (which can’t be touched), most people use an exorbitant amount of water by simply running laundry a few times a week. The good news is that a “laundry to landscape” greywater systems is not only one of the easiest to install but also the least expensive.
This system uses the washing machine’s internal pump to push out the greywater. Which goes to mulch basins around trees, so no additional pump is needed. Laundry to landscape systems employ a diverter valve that is directly attached to the drain hose of the washing machine that allows the user to switch between sewer/septic and irrigation. This is useful if you plan on using bleach in your laundry, or it is raining a lot and you don’t want to irrigate. The system is setup to flow through 1-inch tubing that has ½ -inch outlets for watering plants. This type of system is incredibly easy to install, low cost and low maintenance.
Showers are a good source of greywater, and the other great thing is that the water they produce is relatively clean. The most simple type of shower system is one that is gravity-based. These types of systems require no pump unless you landscape is uphill from the house. You can also use a bucket in the shower to collect water if you have a small garden area or potted plants that need water. Just be sure you are using shampoo and soap that are organic or low in fragrance, dyes, etc..
Kitchen Sink Water
The water from your kitchen sink is high in organic food matter including grease and food. Under many greywater codes, they are not allowed, however, in some state such as Arizona, Oregon, Montana and Washington they are allowed. To avoid clogging, use a branched system wood chip basins. The organic matter will collect in the wood chips and decomposes.
What To Do With Extra Water
If you generate more greywater than you know what to do with, you can always ecologically dispose of it. Creating a wetland in your landscape is a great way to use greywater. As an added bonus, wetlands absorb nutrients and filter particles from greywater, enabling it to be stored for longer periods of time. There are many plants that love “wet feet” and do well in boggy areas. If you live in an area that has plenty of rainfall, creating a beautiful wetland garden is a great way to use greywater.
Things to Keep in Mind
Here are a few things to keep in mind with regards to installing and using a greywater system.
- If you are unfamiliar with these systems, be sure to do your research first to determine which type of system will be best for you water usage and need. It may be best for you to consult someone who has experience in this area.
- It is best not to store greywater. If wish to collect and store water, use a rain barrel collection system. Storing greywater for more than 24 hours may result in the breakdown of nutrients and a bad odor.
- Don’t allow your animals to come in contact with greywater. It could contain a pathogen that may cause harm. (of course you should not come in contact with it either)
- Conduct a percolation test to see how well your ground absorbs water. You don’t want the greywater to pool up or run off. If the water is allowed to pool, it will draw mosquitoes and allow for human or pet contact.
- Keep in mind that simple systems work best. Avoid filters that need upkeep. The simpler the system, the less maintenance required. Simpler systems also use less energy and less money.
- Install a 3-way valve on any system. This valve allows you to switch between sewer/septic and greywater.
- Be sure to water plants according to their irrigation needs.
- Don’t let greywater touch any part of edible plants you are irrigating.
As you think about living a natural and healthy life, be sure to put a greywater system on your radar. Installing a system will help make you more mindful of the world around you, while saving you money at the same time!