Imagine installing a garden hose that comes right off of your home washing machine. The soapy, soiled water from your last load of whites or permanent press clothing runs straight to your summer vegetable patch, cutting your water bills for the year by 30 percent. Today's household greywater recycling systems help you turn your home green while greening your lawn at the same time.
Greywater is wastewater created by household laundry, dishwashing, and showering.
Untreated and recycled, a greywater supply can spare you from buying 38,000 gallons of fresh water every year from the utility company. For better performance, use a greywater recycling system that provides an indoor water supply to flush your toilets and you can experience even greater savings on water bills.
In green building neighborhoods, new homes come with greywater system options along with energy saving alternatives such as solar and wind power systems.
Energy efficiency, greywater, and your bathroom
All the used water -- from daily bathing and showering, from families brushing their teeth to washing dirty dishes -- can overtax septic systems in homes that rely on them to process and leech out wastewater. We're not talking about blackwater, either. Blackwater is the water flushed from toilets that is too contaminated to use on lawns, gardens or with indoor plumbing systems.
But greywater, which accounts for 60 percent of the outflow water from home use, has few pathogens and an estimated 90 percent less nitrogen than black water, according to Toolbase.org.
Greywater recycling systems for reuse come with filters, bilge pumps, holding tanks, and diverter valves. They can be bought as a pre-packaged system or installed by green contractors and manufacturers. University extension offices and manufacturers like Brac Systems sponsor courses in designing and building a symbiotic plant/greywater system for your home.
Benefits of greywater systems completely outweigh drawbacks
Some plants simply do better than others with greywater. However, a study reported by Oasis Design found that "even the worst shortfalls in greywater design rarely cause actual harm, and for the few that do, it's not much."
Of all users of greywater systems in the country, 80 percent report benefits, with some 15 percent achieving complete performance. The few systems that have had poor outcomes are the result of homeowners buying "overbuilt" systems that cost more money than they save in water bills. That's an exceptionally small percentage.
Department of Housing and Urban Development's Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing found that the initial outlay for a new home greywater recycling system runs between $500 and $2,500. The high-end price reflects the costs generated by local codes requiring additional features for processing greywater. So check with your municipality about permits and requirements before pricing a system for your house.