Water Reclamation & Conservation: How to Irrigate & Preserve

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Water Reclamation & Conservation: How to Irrigate & Preserve

Water Reclamation & Conservation: How to Irrigate & Preserve

Water Reclamation & Conservation: How to Irrigate & Preserve

Water Reclamation & Conservation: How to Irrigate & Preserve


This post is mainly about greywater.  So why did I title it “Water Conservation?”  Because we need to understand that having greywater means that we have used water already.  I want everyone to understand that not using water is better than water reclamation.  I want everyone to know how to preserve water.  Only after this, should we consider greywater and how to irrigate with it or reuse it.

What is greywater?  Greywater is water that has already been used in sinks, bathtubs, and washing machines.  It is basically water that has been used by a home service that isn’t typically used for waste management.  Let me lay it out… it is waste water without urine or crap in it!  It is not a potable water, so don’t drink it.

What can we do with greywater?  We can reclaim it for other services.  One such way is to install a tank below the bathroom sink that will collect your used water.  Then have it connected to your toilet tank as the supply.  Once you flush, the water is then blackwater, and must be diverted to a waste management system of the home.  This could be city management or a septic tank.  There are actual plant systems created to dispose of and treat blackwater.

Why would we want to do this?  Lets look at typical home water use:

  • 26% is used for flushing toilets.
  • 23% is used for the laundry room.
  • 20% is used for showers or baths.
  • 15% is used for faucets in your kitchen and bathroom.
  • 13% is lost due to leaks and drips
  • and 3% is used by the dishwasher

So if we come up with a system only to reclaim the shower and bathroom faucet water for the toilet, we could cut water use by 25%.  Many people use greywater for their irrigation.  The water gets sent directly to plant beds or engineered wetlands on the property.  If it will be sent to directly eaten plants, it is usually filtered first.

If we reclaim ALL of the greywater, we can cut our water use by probably 50%.  Not a bad number.  This is the number from the most basic of systems that will relaim it all for flushing and plant irrigation.

The nutrients in greywater are also used by soil bacteria which help grow the topsoil and maintain nutrients in the soil, to give you that nutrient rich soil that you always dreamed of in your hugel beds, or square foot garden.

If we are in a new construction, like an earthship, we could collect rain water, which is potable and sent through a filter.  If you know that the water will NOT be drank, you can skip filtering and just go straight to the services of the home.  You will drink the filtered, and use the unfiltered (still perfectly clean, filtering is a safety thing) water for bathing and washing.  You could then send the water from there to interior botanical cells (indoor planters) to treat it.  The plants will use and clean it and the drained water from the planters can then be used for toilet water.  The blackwater drain from there can then be sent to septic, or to outdoor botanical cells.  Believe it or not, just a few inches of soil cleans water better than most engineered purification systems.

The water comes from rain!  Then it gets used 4 times in one direction and 2 in the other.  If drank, it becomes blackwater, but if used for washing, it is used by plants, the toilet, and more plants.  Obviously, the plants will be beneficial for your needs.

Some properties are not capable of having a septic system, but using greywater systems and composting toilets can actually make these properties livable and even develop into much more.

Not only do you reduce freshwater use, you also reduce septic system use.  At a minimum, you will reduce the frequency of cleaning the tank.

Unfortunately, the one thing between almost every good idea and practice, except money, is the government.  Sometimes they require overly complex, expensive, and inconvenient systems, which will make them undesirable.  If you have a complex system, you will probably have more maintenance than you would have on a septic system.

Also, soil can either be too permeable or not enough.  You may have the inconvenience of modifying a system to work with this soil.

Here is the safety blurb:

  • Don’t contact or consume greywater
  • The microorganisms that treat the greywater are very detrimental when breathed in, so don’t atomize the water or use sprinkler systems with it.
  • If you wash cloth diapers, or your water is generated by infectious people, divert it to septic or sewage.
  • If the system is designed for you, it is for you, not a party of 30 or even 3.  Divert to sewage of septic so you don’t overload the system.
  • After 24hrs, the water should be considered blackwater.  Rid of it.
  • If you don’t want it in your septic, on your plants, or in your soil, don’t use many household cleaners.  There are many organic and even edible cleaners that work very well now.
  • Discharge into a mulch-filled basin so you don’t contaminate the surface water.

I think that anyone that is implementing a greywater system is playing into the natural occurring systems in nature, and they are becoming more self-sufficient with reduced dependence on commercial sewage.  Even the smallest diversion of water is helpful.

If you would like, I welcome any of you to post the details of your system (even the most basic ones that are much easier for people to duplicate) in the comments.  This goes for you also ANN or MARK!!!

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Ken is addicted to fitness and mountain biking. He is such a thrill seeker, people are starting to be concerned!He enjoys MTBing, Hiking, Climbing, Geocaching, Orienteering, Weight Lifting, and Wilderness Survival.

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