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By Roelf Nel

What is grey water?
Any wash water that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called grey water. Shower, dish, sink, and laundry water comprise 50-80% of residential “waste” water. This may be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation.

Why use grey water?
It’s a waste to irrigate with great quantities of drinking water when plants thrive on used water containing small bits of compost. Unlike a lot of ecological stopgap measures, grey water reuse is a part of the fundamental solution to many ecological problems and will probably remain essentially unchanged in the distant future. The benefits of grey water recycling include:

  • Lower fresh water use
  • Better treatment (topsoil is many times more effective than subsoil or treatment plant)
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Less energy and chemical use
  • Increased awareness of and sensitivity to natural cycles
  • Plant growth
  • Reclamation of otherwise wasted nutrients

Grey Water System
A grey water  system can be easily connected to your down-pipes on the outside of your house – either by yourself or the supplier. Your grey water system supplier will usually provide you with one or multiple hoses and sprinklers, spread around the garden. The supplier will also provide you with a pump that is strong enough to pump through two sprinklers simultaneously, covering up to 60 m² of your garden at once.

Common grey water problems

  • Storing grey water becomes a problem as it becomes progressively anaerobic (due to residual aerobic bacterial activity that exponentially depletes the dissolved oxygen). It is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Grey water that is not treated properly is ‘fatty’ and gives off an offensive odour (from the build-up of dissolved anaerobic and sulphide gasses), especially when stored for a few days. It can smell really badly when irrigated out over vegetation.
  • Laundry, bath and kitchen sink wash water typically has a high fat content (from soaps, body and cooking fats), causing grey water to become slimy – not good for the grass

Basic ways you can reuse grey water

  • While waiting for the shower water to warm up, catch the water in a bucket, you can use this water for your plants.
  • Wash your dishes in a dishpan, then dispose of the water into your compost heap.
  • Left over water in your water bottle can be used to water a plant.

There are many small lifestyle adjustments you can make to conserve water. Get creative, have a discussion with friends and family, come up with a group plan on saving water.

Follow Buildforce’s board Greywater Systems on Pinterest.

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Water Saving Ideas