Irrigate With Household Graywater

Enjoy lower water bills, lusher landscapes and longer-lived septic systems when you irrigate with your household graywater.

| August/September 2004

Last summer, almost one-third of the United States suffered moderate to extreme drought conditions, leading many counties to limit lawn and garden watering. Water utilities redoubled their conservation education efforts and, in some cities, police fined wanton waterers — folks who surreptitiously sprinkled their lawns despite citywide bans.

Those homeowners probably did not know they had an untapped resource: 1,000 to 1,500 gallons of “graywater” per week are shunted down the drain by an average four-person U.S. household.

This nutrient-laden wastewater from bathroom sinks, showers, bath tubs and clothes washers is a frequently untapped resource for watering gardens, lawns and fruit trees. Graywater does not, however, include toilet wastewater (also known as blackwater), which may contain high levels of bacteria and viruses.

Shades of Gray

You can put this gray “gold” to good use in your own landscape. Graywater systems range from the rudimentary — dishpan water used to water trees — to the complex — graywater fixtures connected to a network of pipes in your landscape. Your irrigation needs, budget, and local plumbing and health codes will guide your decision regarding which type you can install.

Graywater systems can be retrofitted to existing plumbing, although the ease with which this is accomplished depends on where your plumbing lies. Homes with basement or crawl-space access to pipes usually are the least expensive to retrofit. Your local plumber can help you determine your home’s suitability and recommend options. If replumbing below floor level is not feasible, consider tapping your clothes washer, and routing that graywater to your thirstiest trees and shrubs.

4/11/2007 7:54:49 PM

Using gray water for irragation is a great idea, but what do we do about our toilet "waste". How about recycle it back to the Earth where it belongs. Check out my book on "How to build a Compost Toilet and save a piece of the Earth".

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