Stop Draining Dollars
I would like to recycle more of our household water, and I like the idea of using gray water, which would just be going down the drains. However, I haven't seen any explanations of how it is set up or implemented in the home or garden. Short of hauling buckets of water throughout the house, that is. Can you help me out?
During one dry summer, we used bath and shower water to water the lawn. Shower with the plug in. After each bath or shower, we used a garden hose to siphon the water out the bathroom window and right onto the grass.
Carol in AB Canada
If you use window air conditioners, put a bucket under the drip spout. You will get more than enough to water plants, shrubbery, and bird baths.
During the droughts in California, our family implemented a gray water program. We put small ice cream containers in each sink, let any extra water run into them, and then "hauled" them out to the garden to water valuable plants. We also stood in a flat pan in the shower to collect that water, as well.
If you're having a new home built or your plumbing re-done, and provided your local building codes permit it, you can have the exit plumbing for your bathroom sinks and shower run into a filter and collection unit that has a pump.
If you have the ability, we found that the best way to save water was simply to use old fashioned "rain barrels." Cut off your gutter downspouts and place barrels with lids that cover the entire thing. If the area where the drain pipe goes into the lid is tightly wrapped with something like duct tape and the lid is securely closed, you won't have to worry as much about mosquitoes.
If you really want to go all out, install cisterns, which are basically oversized plastic bottles. These can be put on roofs, under houses or away from the house. In many of the Caribbean islands, cisterns are the only source of water.
If you are going to implement a gray water program, begin using low alkali soap, so that the water helps and doesn't hurt the plants when you douse them.
I have been entertaining this idea myself as our region faces another year of drought, particularly since we have a large family and use lots of bath water. Although I have not implemented this yet, I am working on setting up a siphon from the upstairs and main level bathtubs to the lawn. My plan is to use an inexpensive hand siphon pump that I attach to some tubing that will run from the tub through the bathroom window screen and along the side of the house either directly onto the lawn or into a soaker hose.
I expect this to be fairly simple to use. After taking a bath or even allowing shower water to accumulate, just squeeze the pump until the water begins to siphon out of the tub. As long as the tube ends up at a point outside that is lower than the tub inside, it should work just fine. I doubt this would work with a sprinkler because I will be using much smaller tubing than my garden hose size and there won't be enough pressure.
Mike K - Colorado
I haven't done this yet, but my plan is to recycle the rinse water from my washing machine and use it to water my flower garden. The washer is in the basement and there is space next to it for a large rain barrel. For $70 Canadian, I can purchase a small submersible pump and pump the water from the rain barrel through a nearby window and out into my garden. I figure that within a year, I will have saved myself the cost of the pump in lower water bills.
There are many sources for setting up gray water systems on the Internet. However, you should check with your Codes office to see what is legal in your area. Our area doesn't allow it. My niece just got a visit for the gray water system they had for the washer. They weren't fined, but they had to stop using it because it was against their codes.
I keep quoting Mother Earth News for many solutions. I would recommend scanning past issues for gray water solutions. They have been a source for many earth-friendly answers to many problems in the past for me.
One way that you can save "gray water" is to have an old fashioned laundry tub next to the washing machine. Move the washer's drain hose from the regular drain to the laundry tub. A plug in the bottom lets me hold the water until I unplug it and drain it into a bucket. Instead of going down the drain, I have the option of saving it.
Another way to save water is to use a rectangular plastic tub that fits down into my sink when I do dishes. An added benefit to using the tub is that it saves your dishes from accidental chipping and breakage. I have an old porcelain sink. Therefore using the tub not only saves water for my houseplants, it's gentler on my dishes and I don't have to scour the sink as often!
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