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Collecting And Using Greywater In Your House

Given the droughts and water restrictions we’ve experienced over the past few years, as well as the increasing cost of water, a lot of people are looking for ways to be smarter with their water use.

We’re fortunate in Australia to have plentiful water, and we have grown used to watering our gardens and washing our clothes with the same water that we drink. But we don’t need to – and there are ways to cut back on our water usage that are both good for the environment and great for our wallets.

One option to could consider is collecting and reusing the wastewater from your house. In New South Wales, the wastewater from your house is classified as three different types: greywater, black water and sewage. Black water is the water from your toilet, so it’s considered heavily contaminated, and can’t be recycled in the home. And sewage is a mixture of black water and greywater, and is dealt with in the same way as black water.

Why use greywater?

So that leaves us with greywater. Greywater is the rest of the wastewater from your house, such as from your laundry, shower and hand basin. The average Sydney household produces about 400 litres of greywater every day, which is around 70% of their total wastewater. That figure is for a 3.5 person household, but a greywater system can save you a lot of water for any sized household, by reusing as much as possible of that greywater each day.

There are three different systems that you can use to recycle your greywater, ranging from simple to complex. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, and the greywater from each system can be used for different purposes. Let’s look at those options.

1. Manual bucketing

Have you ever popped a bucket in your shower to catch water as you showered, or under the washing machine drain pipe to catch the rinse water, and then used that to water your plants?

If you have, then you’ve already collected and used greywater.

The simplest and cheapest system of greywater collection is called ‘manual bucketing’, and it is exactly as it sounds. You collect water in a bucket from your shower or your washing machine, and use it to water your garden. It doesn’t need council approval, and the setup is fairly simple: get bucket, collect greywater, pour on garden.

Two things to watch out for though are (a) not storing the collected greywater for more than 24 hours (to prevent it becoming smelly), and (b) not putting your greywater on the garden when it’s raining or the soil is saturated already (to ensure that it doesn’t run off into your neighbour’s land).

It also a good idea to avoid using manually bucketed greywater on your herbs and vegetables, particularly if you plan to eat them raw.

2. Greywater diversion device

These are simple systems which basically divert greywater to a small tank to be used for irrigation. There are a few different types of devices, and they usually have a filter and a pump, and have to be installed in line with wastewater and plumbing regulations.

Because these systems don’t treat the greywater, they can only be connected to an irrigation system which is at least 100mm below the ground’s surface. This means any risks to health or of infection are minimised.

The precautions with a greywater diversion device are much the same as with manual bucketing. Systems should be self-draining so greywater can’t be stored for more than 24 hours, and you need to make sure that you’re not putting untreated greywater on your garden when it’s raining or the soil’s saturated, or onto herbs and vegetables that you plan to eat raw.

3. Greywater treatment system

These systems will help you to get the most use from your greywater. The systems treat the greywater to a specified standard, which means that the treated greywater can be used for more applications, and be stored for longer than a day. There are different systems for greywater treatment, including chemical, biological or mechanical.

Water from a greywater treatment system can be used in your washing machine, to flush your toilet and for watering your garden above ground. As you’d expect with a more complex system, there are stricter regulations about their installation and use. In NSW, you need council approval to install a greywater treatment system, as well as an annual check by your preferred, licensed plumber.

So, why not greywater?

A quick review:

  • Manual bucketing: water is collected in a bucket from your shower and washing machine water and can be used on your garden or lawn within 24 hours.
  • Greywater diversion device: water is diverted to a small tank but is not treated, and can be used for sub-surface irrigation within 24 hours.
  • Greywater treatment system: treats the greywater so it can be used in your toilet, laundry and garden.

Greywater systems are not for everyone, but if you want to save on your water usage costs, and have an interest in water conservation, there will be a system that will fit your needs.

Why not give our team at JEDI Plumbing a call to discuss an option that is right for you.