We've been interested in greywater reuse for some time now and have recently done a bit of research. Greywater is a term that means using household water for bathing and washing and then reusing that water to irrigate the landscape or filter it. (This does not include toilet water, although some greywater systems can filter shower water on site and then reuse the water in flush toilets.) There are many variations of implementing such a system and there are many benefits to greywater reuse.
Here are the two most important benefits:
- Soil, natural bacteria, and plants combined will naturally filter and breakdown soaps, washing solids, and chemicals. Some will even thrive on it. It is nature's way of purifying water.
- Most suburbanites use 40-50% of household water on outside irrigation. This means you could reliably cut at least 40% of the water your household currently consumes by reusing what was used in the house.
Once you can calculate the reduction of water used in your household, you can realize the other benefits. Your household will contribute to 40% less water waste - that means 40% more clean water for you later. You will pay for 40% less for water treatment and 40% less for water pumping to your house. Think what would happen if everyone in your neighborhood followed this trend - water could cost you 40% less than you are currently paying. Some of these costs might be obvious on your monthly water bill, but some might be hidden costs in your MUD taxes, local taxes, and even in your Home Owners Association fees.
When we first heard the term and started seriously considering greywater reuse, I thought this was a new idea. With new technology, plastics, and plumbing, we could start a revolution, right? Well... actually, greywater reuse has been around forever. Water used to wash clothes or vegetables would then be routed to the crops. My grandmother's shower plumbing watered both her orange trees and her flower garden.
So why the aversion to greywater? I think part of the problem is that we are living in the antibacterial age. Antibacterial, sterile, pasteurized, nonfat, low sugar, and homogenized. One hundred years ago, healthy living included raw/whole foods, fermentation (think wine and yogurt), and natural ways of reusing raw materials and resources. People often have misplaced fears of bacteria - not all bacteria is bad, most bacteria is good because it helps your body breakdown compounds in your digestive system, it is what makes leaves turn to compost, and it is what makes grape juice turn to wine.