Contributing Editor: Will Johnston
Make sure to check with your local water company or city regarding the regulations and requirements for grey water use in a residential location.
Due to global warming and irresponsible land and water management many urban areas are seeing a rapid decrease in available water. There are many ways to reduce your water consumption, but also ways to re-use the waste water from your home.
If you would like to take one of those small steps which make a big difference consider the use of your home grey water as a way to reduce your water consumption and lessen your environmental impact. By re-using the water from baths, dishes and laundry you can water your yard and garden. Typically grey water accounts for half of typical residential water use, so every family that can re-use grey water can make a difference in the emerging water resource crisis. Re-use of grey water also eliminates the costs to process the water at a sewage treatment plant and from ultimately ending up in rivers, streams and the ocean as highly treated water from the local processing plant.
If you would like to get started with re-use of grey water, there are a few approaches to consider based on your water usage and how much you can budget toward a grey water solution. The first is to quickly, easily and inexpensively connect a hose to your washing machine and have the cycle water run-off into your yard or into a bladder for temporary storage (not to exceed 24 hours). The next approach is to consider having a splitter installed in your plumbing from your sinks drain. This would allow you to switch the water from your faucet and dishwasher to drain to the outside via a hose or pipe. In combination with draining your washing machine an under the sink splitter could provide significant reclaimed grey water for your yard.
If you live in an area where water conservation is critical then a greywater system might be a good choice. There are a range of systems on the market which can either be installed by someone who is handy or may require a professional plumber to install. These greywater systems allow you to reuse water from a range of sources in your home, including shower and bath, washer, dishwasher and sinks throughout the house. These system will sometimes include a pump from the storage unit to push the water out to the area of distribution.
Examples of some grey water systems include both above ground and below ground.
Some important considerations when using grey water are to ensure that you are using biodegradable cleaning agents or “green cleaners” for your laundry and dishes, because the water is going back into your yard. You must also be sure that only water which contains no human waste or potentially toxic or hazardous chemicals are drained (often referred to as black water). Last, you should not store grey water for more than 24 hours, due to the potential for bacteria to grow and accumulate in the water. Of course, you never would drink or cook with grey water and any storage beyond 24 hours requires treating the water, which is another topic altogether.
If you do intend to store your grey water temporarily and also want a convenient way to have a multi-hose distribution, you might consider purchasing a rain barrel. You can make your own rain barrel with a heavy duty plastic garbage can and with a downspout adapter from your drainpipe you should be able to add to it every time it rains. The rain barrel can be used to capture rain water in the wet season and then in the dry season can be where you drain your grey water until it’s used. By connecting multiple hoses to the barrel you can feed multiple parts of your yard and garden simultaneously or selectively.