There is definitely no shortage of postings and general information on the use or reuse of gray water. My intentions here are to provide some basic information and give my opinion as to the proper use and collection of the gray water.
For those of you that may be new to the term “gray water”, it is the waste water from your home or business that doesn’t come from the commodes or urinals. This is the waste from the sinks, the showers, the dishwasher, the clothes washer or any other source of non-potable (POTABLE: EPA standardized and regulated water deemed suitable for drinking) water with the exception of brown water. Which is as mentioned above, as being from commodes and urinals. For the purpose of this publication will be used for the supply water in the making of brown water.
The use of gray water or re-use of water doesn’t sound very sanitary or very appealing until you consider the facts. Depending on how each gray water system is configured they can save a typical water user (business or home) 45 to 55% of the users water usage. Persons whom indulge in long showers, run the dish washer with small or partial loads, run just 3 or 4 items in the laundry wash, wash their cars on a regular basis, maintain their hot tub and pool and water their lawn will not see much benefit. Frankly, these folks need all the help they can get when it comes to cutting back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for their success……. or apparent success. But I digress.
The point here is that for as little as around $250.00 most any d.i.y. er can put together a basic gray water recovery system that will pay for itself in less than 18 months. That is, if you’re on a municipal water supply and paying $40.00 a month for services. Even if you happen to have a Well it’s money well spent due to increased pump life and the obvious advantage in both scenarios of the savings of life’s most precious resource………. our fresh water.
I’m not going to go into detail here but I will go into where I would draw my gray water from for the purpose of re-use because I haven’t seen anyone else address this. Think about each source of gray water, the kitchen sink, showers, bathroom sinks, dishwasher, clothes washer, air conditioner condensate and rainwater. Yes, I consider rainwater to be “gray” due to the methods in which we gather and store it.
First on my list is the kitchen sink. I would not use this wastewater unless it can be strictly controlled to which side or where the food scraps go. If you want to use the kitchen sink water then I recommend using fine strainers and starting a compost pile and/or worm bin. If you are living green already then you probably already have these.
Second, the showers should be left out. This would be a great source except that everyone I know and have heard of urinates in the shower. Yes, men and women alike. That may be a shock to someone out there but I doubt it. So as far as I’m concerned, the shower is already “brown” and completely unusable.
At this point, the rest of my list represent the sources that I believe stand to serve well as gray water to be captured and become supply for “brown” water. This water supply could even be used to water your lawn. I don’t know if it’s true but I’ve heard that a bit of soap in your lawn water is good for it. Maintaining a “gray” water recovery system would also gain you points in the “Personal Sustainability Test”. More on that later.
I could write a whole other story on the capture and use of rainwater but that too is for another day.