Pipe Dreams: The Basics of Graywater Systems

Use nutrient-rich graywater to irrigate your yard and take advantage of nature's ready-made wastewater filtration system.

  • A graywater system reuses water from sinks, showers, tubs, dishwashers and washing machines to water gardens and landscaping.

Though 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, only about 1 percent of that is suitable for human use—and we are gulping this precious resource at ever-expanding rates. As world population grows steadily, our water use doubles every 20 years. Water tables are falling and pollution renders more water unusable.

But fear not! It’s easy to make a big difference simply by reusing some of the water that needlessly flows out of our household drains. Graywater, the used water from sinks, showers, tubs, dishwashers and washing machines, represents 50 to 80 percent of home “waste” water. Rather than sending it to treatment plants, you can redirect it to your yard and garden and let nature’s filter do its work.

Every Plan is Custom 

For generations, people have washed their dishes in a basin, then dumped the water on the flowerbed—and that’s graywater use at its simplest. If you can access your sink drain, you can remove the P-trap, collect drain water in a bucket and use that water to flush the toilet. With just a bit more effort and some inexpensive tubing, you can create a safe, plant-loving graywater distribution system suited to your garden and lifestyle.

Graywater is most commonly used for landscape irrigation—a great, resource-effective marriage of nutrient-rich water with plant needs. Each system must be designed and operated in response to the particular circumstances, including climate, rainfall, property size, soil types, lifestyle and landscaping. As graywater guru and author of The New Create an Oasis with Greywater Art Ludwig says, “There are no general principles.”

Two Simple Systems 

12/14/2019 12:31:29 PM

Recently realized that I waste water every time I purge cold water from Hot water line before filling Dishwasher or Handwashing dishes. I'm now collecting that water (1 gallon) each time and use it to fill my humidifier or water plants. I would like to use washers rinse water for Lawn, But Cost is high even for basic system. Possible I can use a portable tank to collect water then roll outside to use.

10/31/2013 8:11:55 PM

We recently put in a graywater retrieval system. The up-front costs were a little steep, but the benefits are going to far outweigh the costs. We are striving for self sufficiency and are living a eco-friedly lifestyle. I am an http://wholeearthherbals.com and I believe in being as good to the environment as possible. This graywater system thing is something I highly recommend.

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