What are Graywater Systems?

From on May 02, 2008 in Green Remodeling

Grey Water SinkGraywater is water from baths, bathroom sinks, and washing machines that does NOT contain body or food wastes.

Graywater accounts for 50 to 80 percent of water wasted by residential users. You can conserve resources (and minimize your water bills), by diverting graywater flow to your landscaping and irrigation.

Graywater systems can be a part of new construction or retrofit on an existing home. There are two main ways to recycle graywater: those that incorporate purification and those that do not. Purifying systems can be implemented into your existing plumbing, and often include a pump to send water to toilets or outdoor irrigation.

There are several major perks to recycling graywater:

  • Saving fresh water. Using graywater for watering the garden or landscaping can save you money and increase the local water supply. Outdoor water usgae is highest in summer and across dry climates. If you can recycle indoor water for use outdoors, it’ll cut your water usage in half.
  • Extended life of a septic tank. Graywater use can significantly extend the life of your septic tank by relieving strain on the system. The same goes for your municipal water treatment systems - less waste-water flow results in higher efficiency and lower costs.
  • Purification. Water is very efficiently purified in the upper, most active region of soil. This protects the quality of natural ground waters.
  • Plant and soil benefit. Use of a graywater system enables a landscape to blossom in areas where water may not otherwise be available to support plant growth. Also, nutrients that still exist in your waste-water would find their way back into your yard and help to maintain the land’s fertility.
  • Sensitivity to natural cycles. A graywater system provides satisfaction in taking responsibility for the wise, ecological use of a valuable resource. It also saves energy by reducing pump and treatment needs. It’ll increase your awareness of what goes down your drain; knowing that the water is returning to your land, you are far less likely to toss toxic chemicals down the drain.

There are, nonetheless, possible health and environmental risks to using graywater if it’s not done safely. Water that is laced with harsh, household chemicals can do harm to you and possible kill the very plants you are trying to care for. Be sure never to use water from the toilet and kitchen. Kitchen water is easily contaminated with grease, bacteria, and chemicals. Don’t use harsh, toxic cleaners if you have a graywater system. Look for phosphate-free or low phosphate cleaners. Also, when using a graywater system, it is best to use sub-surface irrigation pipes because it is low risk and the soil will filter the water. Hosing your garden or landscape with graywater puts you at high risk of contamination from any existing chemicals or bacteria.

Finally, because of the potential health risks involved in using graywater, many states and cities have strict codes or laws regulating its use. Check with both your local building department and a qualified plumber before installing a graywater system.