Saturday, September 8, 2012
Greywater is water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. It is not water that has come into contact with feces, either from the toilet or from washing diapers.
Greywater may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products. While greywater may look “dirty,” it is a safe and even beneficial source of irrigation water in a yard. If released into rivers, lakes, or estuaries, the nutrients in greywater become pollutants, but to plants, they are valuable fertilizer. Aside from the obvious benefits of saving water (and money on your water bill), reusing your greywater keeps it out of the sewer or septic system, thereby reducing the chance that it will pollute local water bodies. Reusing greywater for irrigation reconnects urban residents and our backyard gardens to the natural water cycle.
The easiest way to use greywater is to pipe it directly outside and use it to water ornamental plants or fruit trees. Greywater can be used directly on vegetables as long as it doesn't touch edible parts of the plants. In any greywater system, it is essential to put nothing toxic down the drain--no bleach, no dye, no bath salts, no cleanser, no shampoo with unpronounceable ingredients, and no products containing boron, which is toxic to plants. It is crucial to use all-natural, biodegradable soaps whose ingredients do not harm plants. Most powdered detergent, and some liquid detergent, is sodium based, but sodium can keep seeds from sprouting and destroy the structure of clay soils. Chose salt-free liquid soaps. While you're at it, watch out for your own health: "natural" body products often contain substances toxic to humans, including parabens, stearalkonium chloride, phenoxyethanol, polyethelene glycol (PEG), and synthetic fragrances. (to learn more about what’s in your products, go to theCosmetic Database and see how they rate for toxicity). Read our recommendations for soaps and products here.
We believe that for residential greywater systems simple designs are best. With simple systems you are not able to send greywater into an existing drip irrigation system, but must shape your landscape to allow water to infiltrate into the soil. We recommend simple, low-tech systems that use gravity when ever possible, instead of pumps. We prefer irrigation systems that are designed to avoid clogging, rather than relying on filters and drip irrigation.
We promote greywater reuse as a way to increase the productivity of sustainable backyard ecosystems that produce food, clean water, and shelter wildlife. Such systems recover valuable "waste" products--greywater, household compost, and humanure--and reconnect their human inhabitants to ecological cycles. By modeling "appropriate technologies" for food production, water, and sanitation in the industrialized world, we hope to replace the cultural misconception of "wastewater" with the possibility of a life-generating water culture.
We believe more complex systems are best suited for multi-family, commercial, and industrial scale systems. These systems can treat and reuse large volumes of water, and play a role in water conservation in dense urban housing developments, food processing and manufacturing facilities, schools, universities, and public buildings. Because complex systems rely on pumps and filtration systems, they are often designed by an engineer, are expensive to install and may require regular maintenance. If you are interested in learning more about more complicated residential or commercial systems please visit Wahaso or ReWater.
Greywater is different from fresh water and requires different guidelines for it to be reused.
1. Don’t store greywater (more than 24 hours). If you store greywater the nutrients in it will start to break down, creating bad odors.
2. Minimize contact with greywater. Read more>>>