When we think about greywater, we usually consider the used water in our homes that we send down the drain. In a world where almost a billion people do not have clean water to drink and die from poor hygiene and waterborne pathogens, wasting the water in our homes is a crime. On the other hand, statistics show that, on average, an American household wastes over 70 gallons of water for drinking, bathing, laundry, doing the dishes, flushing the toilets, cleaning the house, watering the lawn, and more. The majority of this water is potable. Does it seem reasonable to you to waste clean, drinkable water to wash your car or mop the floors?
In the framework of water conservation, greywater means that we can reuse our water twice, thus conserving the already limited sources of drinkable water that our planet has.
What is Greywater and Where Does it Come From?
Greywater means that we can reuse our water twice, thus conserving the already limited sources of drinkable water that our planet has.Concerning volume, greywater represents the largest constituent of the total wastewater in our homes.
Nobody denies that greywater is slightly dirty and containing particles in it. It can present traces of soap, shampoo, cleaning products, detergents, food residue, cooking oils, hair, and fibers, etc. In comparison to sewage water, however, greywater has not encountered toxins, bodily fluids, and other types of dangerous contaminants. Therefore, we can reuse it for a myriad of chores in the house or the yard.
In the framework of water conservation, greywater is different from black water (sewage). The latter represents all the water that we flush down the toilet. Greywater, on the other hand, has its uses in watering houseplants and lawns, washing cars, mopping floors, and flushing toilets for that matter. It means that we can reuse our water twice, thus conserving the already limited sources of drinkable water that our planet has.
The Problems with Collecting and Reusing Greywater
One issue with the collection and reuse of greywater is that not all of its sources are the same. Moreover, our plumbing systems are not modern/smart enough to separate greywater from sewage water and distribute them separately. Most of our homes’ plumbing combines the two types of wastewater, eventually turning them into black water. Unless we find and install systems that manually capture and redirect greywater, it goes to sewage and becomes useless.
The Legal Aspect of Collecting and Reusing Greywater in Your Home and Yard
Before you start thinking about installing greywater biofilters or other collection and distribution systems in your home, you need to pay attention to some codes and regulations. For instance, in some states, the collection and reuse of greywater coming from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, or washing machines fall under strict rules and procedures. This type of water has a high organic burden. It can foster pathogens, toxins, or chemical contaminants that nobody wants to add to the list of reasons we face a looming water crisis in the United States.
The installation of a greywater system in your home for capture and reuse should first follow the greywater codes in your state and living area. If you are not sure how things go in this department, talk to your local authorities and environmental agencies’ representatives.
Moreover, you should also run your greywater system installation and use project by some environmental lawyers. It would be best if you did this, first, because some states deem illegal some or all the ways of reusing greywater. Another reason why you need an environmental attorney by your side is to make sure that your sustainability efforts do not become ecological threats for the community. The improper management of greywater can lead to odors, groundwater contamination with chemicals and toxins, increased pest activity, pathogen issues, and other similar problems. You may want to conserve water in your home but endanger the ecosystem of the community you live in – something that is intolerable from both a moral and a legal point of view.
Acceptable Practices in Collecting and Reusing Greywater in Your Home
If your state or country agrees with your greywater collection system and your environmental attorney gave you the green light for the project from a legal point of view, here are some ways to put your water conservation efforts into practice!
1. Install a Bath-to-Toilet System
Professional plumbers can modify your plumbing and install bathtub-to-toilet systems that divert the water you use for showering or bathing to flush your toilets. A regular bath takes around 30 to 50 gallons of water. A low-flow showerhead consumes 25 gallons of water for a ten-minute shower. A bath-to-toilet system can take all this water to fill up the toilet basin so you can reuse it to flush the toilet without you moving a finger or even touching the greywater.
2. Install a Sink-to-Toilet System
Plumbers can also divert the water you use in the bathroom for washing hands so it can fill up the toiler reservoir so you can reuse it. When the toilet basin is full, the excess greywater can go down the drain in a collection basin so you can use it for extra chores, like washing the yard, car, patio, driveway, etc.
3. Collect and Reuse Some Types of Greywater Yourself
If you cannot rely on a plumber to modify the kitchen/bathroom installation, you can collect greywater from your home yourself. Here are some solutions:
- Get or build a greywater mulch basin that also filters the water from detergents or other contaminants that you can further use to water your lawn, trees, and landscape;
- Keep the water you used for boiling pasta and use it to water your houseplants;
- You can reuse the laundry water from your washing machine to clean the pavement in front of your house, stairs, driveway, patio, the car, etc. All you need to do is to remove the washing machine’s discharge hose from the house drain and connect it to a longer hose that reaches your house’s exterior.
- The same goes for the water coming out from the dishwasher machine. If you can collect it separately in a bucket/barrel, you can reuse it to wash floors, pavements, vehicles, etc.
- Collect the cold running water from the shower (until the hot water comes) in a bucket and use it to flush the toilet, clean the floors, water plants, etc. The same goes for the cold running water you waste in the sink while waiting for hot water to run.
- When you de-freeze your fridge or freezer, keep the ice to place it into your plants’ pots or in the garden. As it melts away, the water irrigates your flowerbeds and houseplants, thus saving plenty of potable water in the end.
Greywater has its uses in watering houseplants and lawns, washing cars, mopping floors, and flushing toilets for that matter.
As long as you can keep as much as potable and greywater away from the sewage system, you will play your crucial part in building a more sustainable life for your and the future generations. Remember that we have limited sources of drinking water on the planet, and we are depleting them quickly. Advocating for the proper collection, management, and reuse of greywater and putting viable solutions into practice is the least we could all do for the environment.
Have you considered collecting greywater in your home?
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