Greywater – Once Banned, Now Encouraged


Maybe If They Called It Something Else

(First in an occasional series.) Greywater recycling in various forms has been around for decades, mostly involving catch buckets in showers and kitchen dishpans emptied onto sidedoor flowerbeds. Both activities make a statement, but really aren’t that effective in reducing demand.

Here in Austin we’re getting ready to plumb our first whole house greywater installation, which will connect shower, bath, bathroom sink, and laundry into one collection point for on-demand reuse.

In many parts of the world replenishment of the aquifers has not kept up with drawdown.

California, much in the headlines lately because of their continuing record drought, enormous wildfires, and severe water shortages, has taken a 180-degree turn from originally prohibiting greywater recycling. West Coast cities and towns like Encinitas have moved from simply encouraging the reuse of clothes washer byproduct, to requiring whole house hookups in new residential construction.

 Make It Count Or Do Without

In many parts of the world replenishment of the aquifers has not kept up with drawdown, and the risk to society is significant if the trend can’t be reversed. As a result, conservation solutions are being researched that rethink the use once and done traditional approach to water consumption.

As nations slowly begin turning towards energy independence and renewable resources, potable water and access to it is no longer being taken for granted. For instance, Australia has long been aware of greywater’s benefits when it comes to conserving resources. To learn more download their PDF on usage.

It wasn’t that long ago that utilities encouraged consumption. That, in turn, covered the cost of expansion as population growth powered the demand for new infrastructure. Today, greywater recycling is helping reduce the demand on municipal water supplies and treatment facilities.

Throwing Money Down The Drain – Really!

Looking back, the long held notion that water could be tapped for one-time use and then discarded is a view no longer supported by the stewards of our lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

The capture and reuse of slightly used potable water can, over time, make a big difference in how we utilize our resources. At the very least, reclaiming the water consumed while waiting for your shower to warm up is a goal that’s being talked about. And technology is starting to catch up to reality.

Estimates of how much greywater is produced per household or individual vary widely. One figure claims that the greywater produced by one person in an average household is around 1,350 gallons a month. Most stats estimate the amount of greywater generated in an average home is around 60-percent of the total water consumed for all purposes.

Urban Or Rural, There Are Real Benefits

The benefits of reusing greywater, either passively or as part of a whole house pressurized system, include economic and environmental savings. For anyone hooked up to a city or municipal water supply, both consumption and the impact on downstream sewage treatment are reduced.

For homeowners with septic systems the benefits are there as well. Anytime the volume of sewage can be reduced, the life of the treatment facility is extended.

Still in its infancy, residential use of greywater for irrigation is drawing attention as local building codes and ordinances are adjusted to make sure installations and conversions are done safely. Technical aspects to consider include length of time it can be stored, what it can and can’t be used to irrigate, and the best methods for dispersion.

Laundry and bathing soaps should be biodegradable, and lawns aren’t the best candidates for greywater irrigation. Instead, use it to water trees, shrubs, and gardens. If you use a lot of bleach in the laundry, disposing of that wash water back to the sewer instead of the landscape may be a better choice.

As technology develops and attitudes change, water conservation through recycling will shift from an inconvenience to a benefit.

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