Sunday, October 30, 2011

Greywater...what is it & where can you use it?

Greywater is an overarching term that describes water directed from your bathroom basins, laundry (both washing machine and basins), showers and baths. It is not from toilets and kitchen sinks.

Greywater has traditionally in Australia directed straight into the water treatment process (sewage system) and not utilised within the home.  However, now that Australia has been and in some parts still going through a drought, there is obviously a consciousness about water and how we could be re-using it for a variety of purposes.

Greywater diversion is the easiest and most convenient way to re-capture some of the water in our households. The best re-use of greywater is to divert the water from the sewerage system and utilise it for watering plants or lawn around your garden. Some people even use it for washing their car, other vehicles or even their house. This in turn, reduces your requirement to use potable (or drinking) water on your garden, leading to more efficient use of potable water. And it will also result in a cost saving for you, as you won't need the water from the water mains that you use to use on your garden and you therefore won't be charged for this water.

It is important to note, that diverting greywater for immediate re-use is considered non-treated greywater. There are systems which you can install into your house for greywater treatment, which allow you to store treated greywater water and utilise for a broad range of applications. As an example, treated greywater can be used for toilet flushing and washing your clothes (ie in the laundry). It important to note, if you don't have a treatment system for your greywater, you should not store it, as it will quickly turn septic.

Simple measures to divert your greywater for uses around your house, such as on your garden, include:

  • collecting it with a bucket, for example, when you're showering; or
  • connecting a flexible hose to your washing machine outlet pipe.
One important thing is to ensure that whatever you put into any of these input areas (eg laundry, bathroom) is appropriate to go onto your garden. Attempt to utilise products that have low nitrogen and phosphorous and salt levels. Inputs with either high levels of these or accumulation due to "over-use", can lead to issues in your garden, particularly if you have native plants.

So, let's all give it a go.

My initial problem, is that I will need to invest in a very long hose to be able to utilise my washing machine's water in my garden. But it will save me using my precious captured rainwater (see previous post) for garden purposes.

If you would like some more basic information on dos and don'ts of greywater and how to use it in your home, have a look at the Department of Environment and Resource Management's information page.

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