EarthTalk: I know that some large buildings
filter some of their wastewater to irrigate exterior landscaping.
Is there an affordable way to do this at home? —Bill
P., Salem, OR
"greywater" from sinks, showers and washing
machines to irrigate outdoor gardens is a great
way to increase the productivity of backyard ecosystems
while reducing household water use by as much as
30 percent. Pictured: A backyard garden watered
with residential greywater.
credit: Jeremy Levine, courtesy Flickr
that solar panels are so commonplace on rooftops across
the country, reusing so-called greywater—that is,
the waste water from sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines—for
landscape irrigation may be the next frontier in the greening
of the American home, especially if you live in an arid
region where water use is restricted. In fact, reusing your
graywater may be the only way to keep your lawn and garden
healthy without taking more than your fair share of the
community’s precious freshwater reserves.
water from sinks, showers and washing machines to irrigate
plants is a way to increase the productivity of sustainable
backyard ecosystems that produce food, clean water and shelter
wildlife,” reports Greywater Action, a California-based
non-profit dedicated to educating and empowering people
to use water sustainably. According to the group, a typical
U.S. single family home can reduce water use by as much
as 30 percent by installing some kind of greywater reclamation
system while simultaneously reducing pollution into nearby
water bodies by filtering out contaminants locally. Capturing
and reusing greywater can also be part of the battle against
climate change, given that you’ll be helping grow
plants that sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide while reducing
demand on a regional wastewater treatment facility that’s
likely powered by fossil fuels.
simplest way to get into home greywater reuse is to install
a “laundry-to-landscape” system that sends washing
machine wastewater outside via a diversion tank and hose
that can be moved around to irrigate specific sections of
the yard. Equipment costs for such a set-up max out at $200,
but labor and expertise may tack on another few hundred
dollars. Handy homeowners can do much of the work in setting
up such systems themselves, though those without much home
repair or plumbing experience might at least consult a professional.
Greywater Action suggests one way to reduce costs is by
digging trenches for diversion pipes and mulch basins yourself—or
enlist friends who want to support the effort and learn
about residential greywater reuse in the process.
more comprehensive system can draw wastewater from sinks,
showers and tubs, too—and then filter and distribute
it to backyard landscaping via a drip irrigation network.
Getting such a system professionally installed can run upwards
way, once the greywater diversion system is in place, you’ll
need to be careful about what goes down the drain, given
how it might affect the plants and soils right outside.
“In any greywater system, it is essential to put nothing
toxic down the drain — no bleach, no dye, no bath
salts, no cleanser, no shampoo with unpronounceable ingredients,
and no products containing boron, which is toxic to plants,”
adds Greywater Action.
more information on installing a greywater reuse system
yourself, check out the resources section of Greywater Action’s
website, where you’ll find diagrams, written instructions
and even videos to make the job go smoother. Those more
inclined to hire a professional can browse through listings
of qualified installers across the country. And if you want
to see how it’s done first-hand, sign up to attend
one of Greywater Action’s one-day workshops on how
to install a greywater catchment and diversion system in
a residential setting.
NEW QUESTION IS ANSWERED EACH WEEK!
SYNDICATED COLUMN ONLY ON AMERICAJR.COM