COUNTRY LIVING > HOME: Apt, House or Homestead

Grey Water


Elle Mae:
What is Grey Water?
Grey water is waste water from your household that hasn’t been in contact with human waste. It comes from the bath, shower, bathroom sinks, and (laundry) washing machines. Many sources say that since waste water from the kitchen sink and dishwasher can contain heavy loads of organic material, fats and caustic additives, they should be deemed as black water and not reused. Typically, 50-80% of household waste water is grey water, and can be reused. 

Why Reuse Grey Water?
Many areas experience drought-like conditions in the hot summer months, which leads to water restrictions. With heavy watering restrictions, your water could be shut off at certain times of the day, or you could be fined if caught using water outdoors “unnecessarily.” By reusing grey water, you avoid this problem altogether. If you’re on city water, you’ll save loads of money on your water bill reusing your grey water. Likewise, you may save valuable resources if you’re on well water. Using grey water also reduces the strain on water treatment facilities. Reusing grey water is good for the environment and your wallet.

How to Collect Grey Water -
There are multiple ways you can harvest your grey water. It can be as simple as placing a bucket under your bathroom sink to catch what goes down the drain, or as complex as a $10,000 grey water collection, filtration and pressurizing system. In my personal opinion, the cheaper you can get out, the better, since one of our goals here is to save money. If you’re good with solar power conversion, you could always place a tank underneath your house to collect the grey water by diverting the drains from those sources to a separate drain line leading to the tank instead of the septic tank or city sewage. From there, you can place a pump in the tank to be run off solar power to get the water to where you need it next.

Other ways to collect grey water -
1. Place a bucket in the shower while you’re waiting for the water to warm up
2. Save unused drinking water
3. Wash your dishes inside a dishpan instead of directly in the sink
4. Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water, instead of under running water
5. Capture the rinse water from your washing machine
6. Use a bucket to scoop out your water after a bath

Where to Use Grey Water -
Many places in Europe, Australia and the United States that have adopted the International Plumbing Code (I.P.C.) are already using grey water to flush toilets. The I.P.C. protects public health and safety in buildings for all water and waste water related design, installation and inspection by providing minimum safeguards for people at homes, schools and workplace. Check with your local Department of Public Works to see if your area is able to use grey water in toilets.

Another way to reuse grey water, and probably the most common, is for plant irrigation. Do not apply grey water to crops that you will eat raw, such as strawberries, carrots or lettuce. For general health reasons, you might think twice about using grey water on any vegetables. Grey water is perfectly fine for fruit trees where the crop is far from the ground and there is little to no risk of direct contamination by contact with contaminated water. It is best to use grey water in a drip irrigation line instead of spraying directly onto plants.

Be Safe! - It is always best to completely research the use of grey water from multiple sources including your local water authority to be sure it is being done properly.

Do you use grey water or know someone that does?

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Lots of good information, thanks for sharing EM.

I think using gray water from sink, tub, maybe even washer (depending on what use to clean clothes with) would be good for gardens, and lawns etc.

As we've done projects around the farm, we've gradually removed more and more grey water from our septic.  First to go was the washing machine.  All that soap is just not good for our happy bacteria.  We trenched a 4" drain line out into a low-lying area of our woods for that water.  Additionally, my garden sink is piped towards that same area.  We later connected our shower/bath sink into this same pipe.

For our kitchen, we took and dug a 3' wide and 5' deep hole, filled it with rocks/gravel and imbedded a 'grease trap' into it.  The kitchen sink water flows into this mini-septic/drain field, filters through the rocks/gravel into the area near our figs & peaches.  About once a year, we go scrape all the grease/goop from the top layer of gravel.

The canning kitchen has a floor drain that will drain into a raised bed against the outside east wall.  I don't expect to wash down the floors very often, but wanted that option.  The sink drains for the canning kitchen head off into another low-lying/heavily-wooded area.  So we're not really re-using our grey water, but returning it to be naturally filtered by nature and returned to our water table.  Our sand/soils have layers of limestone which are great natural filters.

Thank you so much NavyGal.
I like the way you have done the gray water. In my area  we can't have any above ground water draining, but making an underground  mini S-tank would work fine.


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