As of August 2020, nearly one-third of the United States was experiencing a drought, with a majority of the country’s western half approaching severe drought conditions. To make matters, worse water use has tripled over the last 50 years, and with 40 states projected to experience water shortages by 2024, it is more important than ever to reduce water consumption and make sure that the water we do use gets put to as many uses as possible.
The rise of greywater
One water-saving initiative gaining increasing interest is the use of greywater. Greywater can be broadly defined as non-potable water; i.e. water you can’t drink. The most common forms of greywater that can be collected in our households include wastewater saved from baths, showers, washing machines and bathroom sinks. This water can then be put to other uses that we’d otherwise use tap water for, including for flushing toilets and gardening. So, with the potential to limit potable water consumption, reduce water bills and (quite literally) feed our household plant addictions, we've compiled a guide on how to use greywater efficiently and safely.
Firstly, what not to do
Whilst greywater is technically any non-potable water source, the reality is that not all wastewater is created equal. Toilet water is, of course, a No for re-use at home, as is water from our kitchen sinks and dishwashers due to its high fat content which can kill plants and grass. Especially if you have installed an irrigation system (more on that later), greywater is safe to use, however it is recommended that after collection it’s re-used within 24 hours to avoid the possible collection of bacteria.
Optimizing greywater for use on plants
With gardening taking up to 30% of domestic water use in the United States, using greywater on our gardens and plants makes both financial and environmental sense. More good news is that greywater includes small amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that act as a potential nutrient source for plants, and its soapy quality acts as a natural pest repellent. It is a good idea however to take note of the detergents and soaps you are using at home, with biodegradable and PH neutral products being the most greywater-friendly (see our guide to the best products to use here). Lastly, monitor your plants' reaction to the introduction of greywater and every so often give them a rinse with rain or tap water.
Plants that particularly enjoy greywater include fruit trees, yuccas, conifers and hardy herbs such as rosemary and bay. Flowers can also be watered with greywater.
Setting up your greywater system
A DIY home greywater system can be as simple as collecting your wastewater in a bucket for use in the garden or toilet and an old sock or cut off tight that can be put on the end of pipes to filter any larger pieces of debris from your water. This works perfectly well for many people, however, if you decide to make a more long-term commitment to using greywater, there are many products available that can help you run a more efficient system. The cheapest choice is going to a DIY shop and buying pipes and a water filter yourself. However, various companies have created kits for water conscious residents. Greencoast has compiled a list of the 7 best greywater systems available for homeowners in 2020. Whatever system you go for, opting to use greywater can be a smart choice for the environment, your wallet as well as your thirsty plants. Get saving!