First thought? Well my teenage daughter’s reaction was ewwww gross mom. Kind of ranks up there with boogies in her opinion, but let me explain.
How does one “eat” their bath water? Don’t you mean drink? (now I’m saying ewwww gross) no, I do not mean drink, I mean eat in a round about sense.
We use our gray water for irrigation to water our fruits and vegetables. Ahhhhh, now you see? Not so gross after all is it? or is it?
(time for a Q & A segment of this post)
What is gray water?
Gray water or sullage is defined as wastewater generated from wash hand basins, showers and baths, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as WC flushing, landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands. Gray water often includes discharge from laundry, dishwashers and kitchen sinks. It differs from the discharge of WC’s which is designated sewage or blackwater to indicate it contains human waste.
Why we do this?
Well there are many, many, reasons why gray water recycling is important to us and hopefully it will be to you to, but mainly water conservation. If you watch the news or pick up a paper you can see water is an issue all across the country. My family lives out in California where they have a ban on how much water they use and will be heavily fined if they go over that limit because their city is running out of water. Where we live, there isn’t a fresh water shortage, yet; but why wait? The wait and see mindset of this country will be its demise as well. We should all work together to prevent issues from happening instead of trying to fix them once they do.
Did you know the average person uses 36 gallons of water per bath and 2 gallons per minute for a shower, 5 gallons per minute if you have an older shower head? It’s true. Not to mention flushing the toilet uses 3 gallons of potable drinking water per flush! Can anyone explain to me why we use clean drinking water to flush our waste? More on that later, back to me eating my bath water. If you do a quick math assessment of our home ; (3) 15 min showers per day (more when my daughter takes a shower and less when my son does but it all equals out, ha ha) and (2) baths per day times x (6) days per week – always miss one day of bathing somewhere which equals a whopping 1,512 gallons of water per week!!!!! Holy cow batman! Those are the low numbers. Now wrap your head around how many people live in your town or city and where they get their water from and try doing the math, ouch!
Okay, now let’s factor in gardening. If you live in an urban area or even a rural one chances are everyone has some form of landscaping that they maintain with a sprinkler system. The average garden/yard needs 1″ of water at 60 degrees per week. Add an additional 1/2″ of water per week for every 10 degree increase. So if it’s 90 degrees outside your garden will need 2 1/2″ of water per week.
An inch of water is about 60 gallons per 100 square feet. In our small yard it would take 7,548 gallons of water per week to water every inch of our property. Of course we don’t need to water every inch of our property, our house eats most of our square footage, but we do have several small vegetable gardens that need water.
With just (2) baths you could water a 100 sq ft garden with 1″ of water using gray water irrigation. Are you seeing the benefits yet?
Still can’t get past the bath water thing? When you water your plants with gray water, soil filters the minor contaminants out of water through a relatively simple process. The water first seeps through layers of sand, and the big pollutants get caught in the dirt – – kind of like in a household water filter that uses charcoal. The dirt hangs onto the nutrients and biodegradable elements that can be absorbed by plants. The bacteria and microorganisms in the ground filter out the water, carbon dioxide and insoluble substances by eating the carbon and pathogens and leaving the rest. Once all the water has been cleaned through this process, it is either taken in by plants or it adds to the groundwater below
Things to consider before using gray water for irrigation:
- Does your city allow gray water recycling? Sounds crazy to even ask such a question but believe it or not, many areas in the United States have laws against using gray water or even collecting rainwater so check with your local service
- What do you put down your drain? What I put in my water is as equally important to me as saving water. For that reason we use only biodegradable non-toxic products. If you use off the shelf shampoo, bubble bath, shaving cream, oils, etc. you may want to use your gray water for landscape irrigation and not for consumption purposes.
- Do you or someone in your home have handyman skills? You don’t need to be a licensed contractor to set up a gray water irrigation system but you will need the basic plumbing skills. we give this a 3 out of 5 skill level rating (step by step instructions and guide will be posted later and this will be updated at that time)
- If you are not handy you can still recycle gray water simply by using a bucket. More time-consuming but gets the job done all the same
Currently we recycle gray water from a couple of sources. Our master bath tub water is used to irrigate our front vegetable garden, our washing machine water is diverted to a pond that we use for landscape irrigation and our dishwasher gray water is use for our irrigation in the back yard.
Future projects on our to-do list:
You know all of the water that goes down the drain while you are waiting for the hot water to kick in? We want to collect that water in a holding tank and use it for irrigation as well.
My favorite upcoming project idea is to collect our kitchen sink rinse water and use it for flushing the toilets using a holding tank and pump.
I will keep you posted every step of the way and would LOVE to hear about your gray water recycling ideas!!!