Flushing the Toilet with Greywater

Reader Contribution by Deanna Duke

When we first moved into our house almost 5 years ago we were told the shower in the master bathroom had a leak, but that it had been fixed. The inspector checked it out and it looked good. For a while. Slowly, over the course of months and years, the drip returned.

We tried a number of different solutions to slow the drip, some more successful than others. Short of tearing out all the tile and replacing 50-year-old plumbing, we chose to ignore it as we had other, scarier stuff completely eclipsing our lives. The little drip (along with other home projects) went unattended.

Things around here have since stabilized, more or less, and in order to avoid expensive repairs we started collecting the dripped water in a bucket. During the summer months, this collected water gets dumped into the rain barrel. It’s clean drinking water and can be used for whatever needs watering. During the wet season which, in Seattle, is most of the year, the collected water is used for flushing the toilet.

We don’t flush the toilet a tremendous amount of times during the day since we off and on use cloth wipes and practice the mellowing yellow mantra. But, when it’s time to flush, using saved water makes me feel like it’s canceling out the drip.

For those who haven’t tried using greywater (saved shower water or bath water or, really, any used water) for flushing your toilet, you just lift the toilet seats and pour it in. The volume of water causes the toilet to flush. It’s like freaking magic, I tell you. But, then again, I’m easily amused by all things related to the potty.

Anyway, over the last month or so, that slow drip has increased to a more moderately paced drip. And now we are collecting far too much water to sanely ignore this issue any longer. I’ll be calling a plumber this week to see what damage is required to resolve the problem and, in the meantime, I’ve been sort of feeling forlorn about not having as much water for flushing the toilet.

So, this morning I tried an experiment. Instead of just collecting the shower warm-up water (which I’m more apt to do during the dry summer), I took a shower with the bucket in there with me. It doesn’t take up much space, but it does collect quite a bit more water. Since we use biodegradable soap, anything that splashes into the collection would be relatively harmless. As a result, I’m thinking that once the shower is fixed, I can still have a goodly amount of greywater for flushing or watering plants or whatever.

Do you use saved water or greywater for flushing your toilets? Tell us about it in the comments section below.