The average person wastes 25 gallons of greywater per day. But with a bit of ingenuity, this gently used water just might have the power to change the world.
Before we go any further, let’s be clear on what greywater is and what it isn’t. Greywater is gently used water from sinks, showers and washing machines – so it likely contains trace amounts of dirt, grease, and cleaning solutions in addition to organic matter like strands of hair and leftover food. It is NOT, however, water from toilets or washing machines that handle soiled laundry like diapers. This type of water, which is completely separate from greywater, is known as blackwater.
That being said, there are still a few important safety standards in regards to greywater:
• Never store greywater more than 24 hours, as it could potentially have grown hazardous bacteria.
•Minimize contact with greywater by allowing water to soak directly into the ground without pooling.
• Match the amount of greywater your plants will receive with their irrigation needs.
• Keep your system as simple as possible. Avoid pumps and filters that require regular maintenance.
While greywater recycling is certainly not as prominent in areas that do not suffer from drought, it can still provide value to your household and establish good conservation habits. And with the right low-maintenance system, you could save yourself a pretty penny while helping the environment at the same time
Why Greywater Recycling Matters
It’s no secret that much of the US has experienced record droughts in recent years. In fact, water levels in California have dropped so low that, in some areas, the land itself has begun to sink up to two inches every month. Fortunately, by embracing the concept of greywater recycling, these drought-stricken landscapes, both here and around the world, can make the most of the water they’re already guaranteed to use on a daily basis.
The Professional Method
Recycling your greywater is now easier than ever to integrate into your home. There are several commercial products that can help you achieve a higher level of safety and efficiency than a DIY solution. One of the most popular of these products is known as the IrriGRAY dripperline invented in Australia.
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For installation guidelines, click here.
The DIY Method:
The easiest way to start greywater recycling practices is to do it yourself. Do you know how much water is wasted when waiting for your shower or bath to warm up? All of that water can be used elsewhere if you save it. Simply collect your “warm-up water” by positioning a bucket underneath your faucet or showerhead and remove when your water is fully heated. You can use this water for plants indoors or outdoors, and the water you collect won't even have traces of chemicals in it.
From the Washing Machine
The next easiest way to recycle your greywater is by diverting water from your washing machine. Whereas other methods require you to cut into existing plumbing, washing machines have an internal pump that automatically pumps the water out for you. That way, you can simply tap directly into it with a diverter valve, then run 1” tubing with 1/2” outlets directly to the specific plants you wish to water. With its low cost, easy installation and flexible capabilities, this “Laundry-to-Landscape” method is currently one of the most popular methods in California.
From the Shower
With each family member taking at least one shower a day, the shower has definitely earned its title as king of all greywater. To install a simple, yet effective, recycling system try the branched drain method. While it will require cutting into existing plumbing, it requires very little maintenance in the long run.
The branched drain method is a gravity-based system that uses standard 1 ½″ drainage pipes that slope downward from the home to the lawn. Dropping ¼” for every foot traveled, the water is split into separate paths until it reaches the desired locations – often a mulch pit by tree roots or other large perennials.
If your lawn is uphill from the home, however, you will need to use a pumped system for best draining results. Budget cost from online sources, or with a plumber, to make sure the investment is worth it.
From the Sinks
Last, but not least, the sink is another great source for collecting greywater. However, kitchen sinks can clog systems with larger pieces of organic matter, like food, so they are usually not recommended and are currently banned in Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Montana. The best thing to do is to merge the water from bathroom sinks to fit into the same pipes as the ones coming from your shower. That way, the greywater from both sources can drain down quickly and easily.
Let the Recycling Begin
As you can tell, recycling greywater isn’t for everyone just yet – even if it does have the potential to conserve countless gallons of water around the world. Fortunately, there are still enough people out there like you that we have managed to put a dent in the otherwise rampant water usage. And that’s definitely a step in the right direction.
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