What is Greywater?

Keep your lawn and garden lush without wasting resources by capturing and recycling the greywater that drains from your sink, shower, and washing machine.

| January 2018

  • You can identify greywater sources in your home, estimate flow rate, and pinpoint where to redirect the wastewater for the greatest benefit.
    Photo by Pixabay/Kaboompics
  • “Greywater, Green Landscape” by Laura Allen explains the benefits of reusing water from your home to save money and resources.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

Greywater, Green Landscape by Laura Allen (Storey Publishing, 2017) is an accessible and detailed guide that walks you through each step of planning and installing a variety of greywater systems, including laundry-to-landscape and branched drain gravity-fed systems. This excerpt explains the basic concepts of greywater.

You can purchase this book in the Mother Earth Living store: Greywater, Green Landscape.

Greywater is gently used water from sinks, showers, baths, and washing machines; it is not wastewater from toilets or laundry loads containing poopy diapers. Plants don’t need clean drinking water like we do! Using greywater for irrigation conserves water and reduces the energy, chemicals, and costs involved in treating water to potable quality.

Reusing water that we already have is a simple and commonsense idea. Just use “plant friendly” soaps (those low in salts, and free of boron and bleach), and you have a good source of irrigation water that’s already paid for. 

Greywater systems save water and more. They can extend the life of a septic system, save time spent on watering, act as “drought insurance” (a source of irrigation during times of extreme water scarcity), and encourage the use of more environmentally friendly products. They also use less energy and fewer chemicals than other forms of wastewater treatment.

Water Savings from Greywater

You can expect to save between 10 and 20 gallons per person per day (or more) from a greywater system, though this number can fluctuate greatly. Studies estimate savings of between 16 and 40 percent of total household use. How much you actually save depends upon how much you currently irrigate, whether you use greywater on existing plants or you plant new ones, and how many greywater sources you can access. One study in Central California found an average household savings of 15,000 gallons per year after the grey-water system was installed.

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