Urban water reuse opens the floodgates for creative harvesting techniques, savings and re-establishing an interconnected relationship with life cycles. When fruit bearing trees, medicine plants, and other flora are the beneficiaries of grey water installations; a bath is more than a luxury, and certainly not wasting water. Relax, restore, rejuvenate in healing waters and then let those fruit trees drink up as your stress goes down the drain. Then, sip on herbal tea or homegrown brew and nibble on those fresh picked cherries knowing you are in the flow of mindful living.
At first blush, the idea of installing a grey water system seemed intimidating. I didn’t have a formula for calculating our household water usage, and I had no frame of reference for the plumbing adaptations and system installations necessary to transport household grey water to the landscape. What I did have, is a nagging sense of irresponsibility because I wasn’t reusing grey water to grow food, when other people had to hike miles to quench their thirst, and some fish have no upstream to swim in. With the added motivation of taking the Resiliency Challenge, my son and I focused on grey water system installation as the primary change we would make, knowing other sustainable activities would naturally fall into place as a result. With fore thought, grey water harvesting and creating a food forest could, then, grow hand in hand. Throughout the process of installing our grey water system we have found some great, local resources, and have strengthened our connection to our community.
Though our county is experiencing dry conditions, we are juicy with innovation and grass roots change. With impeccable timing for our project needs, Daily Acts put on the Rain and Grey Water Fed Urban Oases Garden Tour in Petaluma. Attending this workshop, along with their Grey Water 101 and a hands on installation workshop, gave us invaluable information and the where-with-all to take next steps. With an open mind and willingness to learn, we soaked in the collective wisdom present at these workshops, researched possibilities on line, talked with neighbors, refined our design ideas and installed our first grey water system. We are still part of the” bucket brigade” for the dish washing water but happily have designed and installed our first bathroom to landscape system with plans to create a laundry to landscape system next.
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS WE NEEDED TO ANSWER
Q. What is grey water?
A. Grey water is essentially used household water other than water from toilets (which is considered black water).
Q. Is installing a grey water system(s) feasible?
A. This is site specific and determined by the layout and construction of a home, as well as your budget.
Q. How do I learn about installing grey water myself?
A. There are many do-it-yourself sites on line as well as agencies offering free or low cost instruction,
Q. Should I hire a professional instead of doing it myself?
A. For laundry to landscape a permit is not required, and the installation is relatively straightforward (a hands on workshop was helpful).A bathroom to landscape grey water system requires a permit from city/county over site agencies. It is important to learn about building code requirements and uphold public safety concerns. Plumbing can be complicated and I found hiring a plumber preferable.
Q.What do I want to grow?
A. With water conservation in mind, food and /or native drought tolerant plants are best suited.
Q. How do I know if the plants/trees will thrive in the site location, and also be OK receiving grey water?
A.This takes observation of site conditions, knowing which plants thrive in your climate zone, and researching the needs of the plants you want to grow.
Q. How much water does the household use over the course of a week that can be repurposed as grey water?
A. There are formulas laid out in Brad Lancaster’s books and other websites; I will link to these at the bottom of this page.
Q.What are the watering needs of the plants I want to grow and will I need to augment the grey water system with a drip irrigation system to satisfy?
A. The WUCOLS guide shows water needs for specific plants. It’s important to keep in mind this changes with the seasons, over the life span of the plants, and that the amount of grey water a household produces can fluctuate. It’s best to have a system of over-site and make adaptations as needed. It is often suggested to reevaluate how you use your grey water seasonally.
Q.What products are safe to use in grey water to landscape?
A. Organic products that do not contain sodium, boron, borax, chlorine and phosphates. (stay tuned for recipes for environmentally friendly soaps and cleaning supplies)