Country Lore: Low-Cost Grey Water Irrigation

A reader explains how waste water collected from your kitchen sink can become the feed source for a grey water irrigation system in your vegetable garden.

Grey water irrigation

A simple, portable grey water irrigation system for a small garden.

PHOTO: DANA COHEN

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I’ve always wanted to do more with greywater (also spelled graywater, gray water and grey water) — waste water from dishwashing, laundry, and bathing — but as a renter, I wanted to invest my money and energy in a way that was more portable than traditional systems. I started by looking into rain barrels as a way to cache water and was amazed at how expensive they were. Then I found a few 5-gallon buckets at a construction site, and came up with this simple grey water irrigation setup that has worked well for me for the past two summers.

The setup is a 5-gallon bucket with a tap inserted, hooked up to a commercial drip irrigation system in my raised garden beds. I use one bucket per 2-foot-square bed.

I clean the buckets, drill a hole, and insert a garden-hose-sized tap. To keep the tap from leaking, I cover the thread with Teflon tape, put a washer on the inside of the bucket and use a plastic hose coupler to secure the tap. I hook this up to the drip irrigation system.

The drip irrigation kit was the most expensive part of this system at about $25. The tap and accessories totaled a little less than $6. I live in northern Arizona, and during the heat of high summer I use a full bucket a day in my sunniest bed.

The source of the grey water is the leftover water from washing dishes, which I collect in another 5-gallon bucket I keep by the sink.

Dana Cohen
Fredonia, Arizona

doug!! smith
12/28/2011 11:34:09 PM

you could place a 55 gal. barrel in the cellar or whatever is down there to catch the water. !'d want some way to know it was full so ! could cut it off before flooding. You could also divert it to a barrel outside where spillage wouldn't be a problem. Above ground especially if it's near your garden you could tap your barrel for an overflow hose T-ed into your pump hose. That way your overflow would just go to the garden and your pump would use the same hose.


kartik srinivas
12/28/2011 6:51:52 PM

I'd love to do more greywater at my place, and love the simplicity of using a regular 5 gal. bucket. But, is there an easy way to divert water, e.g. under the kitchen sink, on an as-needed basis for this kind of use? Of my DIY know-how, plumbing is my weakest. Ideally I could put in some kind of Y-diverter that would send kitchen sink greywater to either the drain or to a bucket for re-use. Or is there an easier method I'm missing? We don't fill the sink up to do dishes like some folks do, which would make this task easier--we run the tap quickly to rinse, then use the dishwasher. Thanks!


john rockhold
9/9/2011 2:46:56 PM

You can save big bucks by using that dirty greywater that really isn't that dirty.


molly norton
5/29/2010 9:33:21 AM

Do you do anything to filter your water before using it? I want to hook up a greywater system to my veggie garden but everything on the internet is so strong against it. I have no meats in my kitchen water and only use Dr. Bronner's soap... wondering if I filter it through some sand and charcoal, why wouldn't i be able to use it?