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Just to make sure everyone is up to speed, graywater is waste water from household uses, such as washing the dishes, doing laundry or taking a bath, while black water is the much more unsavory combinations created in the commode. This is important because, while black water is pretty much done for, in need of serious sanitation before being let back into the public sphere, in many instances graywater is perfectly fine for lots of everyday tasks we undertake that don’t really require pure, fresh water.
With the climate being as it is, and our fresh water supplies dwindling as they are, and the various other drinking water tragedies currently befalling the U.S. and other countries, a little extra care and consideration of our water sources is long past due. One of the easiest ways of doing this is making use of the graywater we produce, rather than utilizing clean water. It takes minimal effort and saves gallons upon gallons each month.
Common Ways We Create Graywater
We create graywater in many different ways. When we wash dishes, what goes down the drain is graywater, and for that matter, it happens when we strain pasta, clean our vegetables or quickly rinse something. When we brush our teeth, wash our faces, or take a bath or shower, that’s graywater. Essentially, what goes down the drains of sinks and tubs.
Other ways include typical, modern day appliances. Washing machines create volumes of graywater for every load. Dishwashing machines are the same. Between cleaning cycles and rinses, these luxuries go through lots of fresh water, all which could be reused for something. Unfortunately, our convenience here, per usual, equates to wastefulness, and dealing with that will require a more thorough approach.
Big and Small Graywater Systems
The most common way of dealing with graywater responsibly is using it to water the lawn; however, this can mean a bit of remodeling and will cost some money. In this case, graywater goes to irrigation tunnels, black water elsewhere. The benefit here is that it’s automatic, with no thought from the user. The water used in the shower or brushing our teeth feeds our lawn so that we aren’t wasting horribly large amounts on sprinklers. Some systems will actual use send the graywater the toilet so that it isn’t fresh water we are flushing.
For most of us, at least in the early stages, a large-scale graywater system like this is not a realistic option, so we are lucky that there are other, less costly methods that just require a bit more consciousness as to keeping up with it. Though rudimentary, this basically entails buying a few buckets to designate for a certain task and thinking through how we might be creating wastewater and the easiest way to use it.
Setting Up the Systems
For now, though, we can just focus on what can be done quickly and with very little investment, know-how, or even commitment. It will call for a bit of adjustment to the way things are normally done, as well as some time to assess how the systems work best, but that’s the price we pay for not paying a big price on remodeling the house. What’s more is that we have the reward of making ourselves much more responsible, aware people.
Firstly, we will be catching water from sinks. This can be done by simply slipping underneath there, unscrewing the p-trap, and letting the graywater drain into a bucket. This works on all kitchen, bathroom or utility sinks in the house, and usually, it can be done without any tools. This method, of course, will require monitoring the bucket and remembering to empty it regularly. For those who use biodegradable soaps, it’s possible to then use that water for the house plants or the gardens outside, and most definitely any water that is used for rinsing something clean — a glass, a beet, a face — can be given to a plant. Otherwise, the water might work for cleaning the floor, a sidewalk, car tires, or something like that.
Next, we’ll be attending to the bathtub or shower. If there is a way of stopping the water from going down the drain, at least some of it can be bailed out and saved — for a couple of days — and used for mopping floors or washing outside things, like patio furniture or a deck or the lawnmower. The point is that, with a little effort to fill a five-gallon bucket every shower will mean that we are using five gallons of clean water to scrub the toilet or rinse the garden tools. Or, even better, it could be used to flush the toilet, either pouring it directly into the bowl or refilling the tank with it instead of with fresh water.
A Little More Encouragement
Why not try? Most of us have a bucket or two floating around the garage, and most of us want to do our part in caring for the planet. That’s why we turn the faucet off when brushing our teeth, right? Well, imagine how much more fresh water we could save if we didn’t use any for mopping or cleaning outdoors or watering our plants. In fact, with this method, we can easily reconnect the drain if need be or simply take a night off of bailing the bathtub, but what a difference we could make the rest of the time. Literally, this could equate to over well over 100 gallons a week for even just a single person or a couple, more than many people have access to over an entire week.
Then, it’ll be time to start trying to catch the rain!
Image source: Andy Atzert/Flickr`